Town orders U.S. flags removed from fire trucks

Photo Credit Poughkeepsie Journal 

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — American flags were removed from three fire trucks in New York on Tuesday sparking heated discussion on social media and disappointment from union members.

Arlington Fire Chief Tory Gallante was directed by the Board of Fire Commissioners to remove the flags from the backs of the trucks during Monday's meeting. He declined to comment on specifics of why the decision was made but said he is “very disappointed with their direction.”

Arlington Fire Commissioner Chairman Jim Beretta said the board majority feel the flags are a "liability during normal operations for our people and other motorists," and that the board had not been consulted before the flags were mounted.

The flags, which were only recently mounted on the trucks at the request of the union, were removed during a ceremony at Arlington headquarters in the Town of Poughkeepsie on Tuesday.

Union President Joseph Tarquinio said he's disappointed in the board's direction, but "if we had to take them down, they had to be taken down the right way. At the time when the country needs unity, to do something like this ... it's next to flag-burning in my mind."

There was an open discussion about the issue at Monday's meeting "and each board member gave their opinion," Beretta said.

Two board members "had no problem with it as long as it was safe and not in the way of operations," Beretta added. Three board members "did have a problem with it for normal operations, citing liability and distraction to other motorists."

Tarquinio is pleased with the outpouring of support — Gallante said dozens of messages have poured in from around the nation, decrying the board's direction.

"I think (for) a lot of people ... (the issue) crosses political lines, moral lines, religious lines," Tarquinio said. "It's the flag of this country."

Online, reaction varied. Hundreds of people expressed outrage at the decision. Others said the display, while patriotic, violated U.S. flag code. Some said there are bigger issues to worry about and that displaying — or not displaying — an American flag does not make one person more patriotic than another.

The board did not take an official vote on the matter Monday, but "a direction (based on majority) was given to remove the newly affixed physical flags," Beretta said. "The board has the authority to provide direction to the chief based on a board majority."

Gallante said the firefighters union recently asked him if they could display American flags on the rear of fire trucks.

He granted the union permission to do so, as long as the flags were maintained properly and safely secured, and "at their (the union's) cost ... the flags were placed on the vehicles," Gallante said. The flags were "checked by our mechanics to make sure" they were safely secured.

After the flags were removed, Gallante said he hopes the outpouring of support will prompt the board to reconsider.

by Nina Schutzman

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  • James - September 01, 2016

    That is totally bs that they made them remove the flags from the truck. I think that they should inforce the pull to the right law before removing our country’s flag from our fire appurtenance. Cuz that can help in a haz- mat accident with wind direction. THIS IS FROM AN OKLAHOMA VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER

  • JT - August 29, 2016

    Many departments nationwide have the American flag flying on top of or on the rear of their apparatus. Why is it a problem here? These Commissioners need to reevaluate their decision, just saying!

  • Scott Nasby - August 29, 2016

    Well these board meambers must be elected right? well folks find 3 new guys and replace them.
    That’s what Vol. Depts. do. You got a union, why cant you do a peacefull picket. has to be other unions to back you too.

  • Dave Ehrhardt - August 24, 2016

    This board makes me sick. There is no way my board will get me to remove our countries flag. I would tell them where they could take that request. This whole country is going down the tubes and people with no compassion for what our flag stands for is the biggest part of the problem

  • Brett - August 22, 2016

    That is bull crap

  • Bob - August 21, 2016

    Those board members should be truly ashamed of themselves. Distraction to motorists!! Really? How about enforcing the law of staying 200 feet behind the fire apparatus and pulling to the right and STOPPING. That should insure no motorist of being distracted. What another example of the American way of life going down the drain.

  • ken - August 17, 2016

    I believe that the flags should be flown from the trucks.

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