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Florida Fire Chief Responds: American Flags Will Be Flying by the End of the Week


"I took the project out of their hands and formulated a plan with our fleet maintenance division to fabricate a system that would comply with the US Code."

Last week, a Florida fire station rocketed to national attention after the firefighters were ordered to remove their American flags from the trucks.

A small group of protesters energetically waved their own flags outside, one declaring: "My goal today is that they say, ‘yes the flags are going back on the trucks, yes we have a solution.’”

(Related: 'Betrayed': Floridians Protest After Firefighters Ordered to Remove American Flags From Their Trucks)

At the time, the local Fox affiliate, WTVT-TV reported that the city was trying to be “sensitive” about the proper display of the American flag, after getting in touch with a spokesperson for Seminole Fire and Rescue.

Off-camera, fire fighters allegedly explained that it was really two complaints that likely prompted the order.

Now, after being contacted by countless people from all across the country, the Seminole Fire Chief is both saying that it was all a big misunderstanding, and that American flags will be up and flying once more by the end of the week.

According to the fire chief, the reported "sensitivity" was only regarding proper compliance with U.S. Code.

Fox 13/WTVT-TV has more information:

The Blaze asked the Fire Chief, George Bessler, a few questions over email to get to the heart of the matter:

1) Why were firemen reportedly talking off-camera about how it was really complaints that got the flags removed, and not appropriate adherence with US Code?  

I do not know what the off duty firefighters said in interviews. I will tell you that on March 28th, our District Chiefs were informed of the US Code [requirements] for flying flags properly in writing through a department email. That email was initiated from a previous complainant who told us we were not complying with the US Code and [were] being disrespectful. We investigated the US Code and confirmed the complainant to be correct. The Complainant only requested we comply with the US Code and fly the flags in a respectful manner. He never said he objected to flags being flown. So if what you said the off duty firefighters stated was correct, the Firefighters were partially correct that a complaint was received. They were however not correct about the reason for the complaint...

2) If the request to remove flags was really out of great respect, then why not ask for them to be properly mounted, rather than removed, originally?

We did just that. On April 9th, the Command Staff of the Fire department met and discussed the issue. It was decided to send this issue to the fire department Operations Advisory Committee which is an active committee made up of fire department employees, to provide a recommendation on how our department could mount the flags and be in US Code compliance. Unfortunately, to date, the Operations Advisory Committee never provided a recommendation. In light of the recent events, I took the project out of their hands and formulated a plan with our fleet maintenance division to fabricate a system that would comply with the US Code.

3) Earlier reports indicated that the city had a lot to do with getting the flags removed.  Do you have to get any kind of city approval before putting the new flags up?  How has the city reacted to the news that you will be once again flying American flags from your trucks?

If by City you mean me, it was my direction to remove the car flag from the engine until flags could be reinstalled on all vehicles to met the code (waiting on the Operations Advisory Committee). Our correspondence dating back to March 28th and April 9th confirm those facts. Our city has always supported flying American flags from our fire apparatus as long as they are respectfully displayed in accordance with the US Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Section 175, paragraph b. regarding the proper way to display a flag on a vehicle. No additional permission was required.

I am proud to tell you the vehicle flags are being installed starting [Thursday] at 0930, will be completed on all vehicles by the end of this Friday, and will be in complete accordance to the US Code. Further, all of our fire stations have always flown American flags 24/7 from poles that are lit at night, as well as all city buildings. We wear the American flag emblem on our uniforms, we have an active city supported fire department honor guard that participates in community events, and all council meetings start with the Pledge of allegiance. Our city has never been approached with a request not to fly our flags. Just the opposite, if we fail to see that one of our flags is torn, we get calls to replace it. We receive flags for our fire stations from Congressman Young’s Office. Does that sound like a city that bows to the sensitivity of 2 complaints? [sic]

The Tampa Bay Times relates: "Despite the turmoil, Bessler said he sees some good in the situation. One is that Seminole's firefighters know they're supported. Another is that people are now more aware of the proper way to display the flag."

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