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Long Island Fire Department Feeling The Heat After State Audit

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A damaging report released on Wednesday accuses Long Island firefighters of using taxpayer money to fund out-of-town vacations.

The accusations against the Lakeland Fire District came to light during an audit by the New York State Comptroller's Office and have triggered outrage.

The audit found that fire officials took five trips but allegedly skipped local conferences. Eight members apparently spent four days in Las Vegas at a cost of more than $13,000, but did not register for the conference, stay at a discounted hotel, or attend training sessions.

A spokesman for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said that it appeared to be a personal trip.

"Clearly they were taking advantage of the system and were benefiting themselves more than district taxpayers," Brian Butry told CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff.

A seven-day trip to a conference in New Orleans cost nearly $9,000. Only one member attended a single 45-minute keynote presentation, Gusoff reported.

Taxpayers told Gusoff  that firefighters are entitled to perks but that this was too much.

"I greatly appreciate their volunteer service. There's no doubt about it. But it's just not okay with me to do that sort of thing with taxpayer money," one Lakeland resident said.

Others were not quite as bothered by the apparently lavish excursions.

"These guys risk their lives to save people on Long Island and they work hard and they earned everything. They've always done a good job. I've always backed them up," a resident said.

Five elected fire commissioners said that they were unavailable for comment. They defended the trip to Vegas and said that firefighters spent their days meeting with vendors looking for the lowest prices on lifesaving equipment.

Officials implemented corrective action and said that firefighters would not be attending out-of-state conferences in the future. Once future conferences are approved members will have to attend.

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