The fire chief in Seminole said his trucks will fly U.S. flags by the end of the week after residents over the weekend protested after firefighters were told to remove them from their trucks.
Fire Chief George Bessler received dozens of calls and emails from around the country after the story hit blogs and the Internet.
"Something happened on social media that spread misinformation," Bessler said. "This issue was never being insensitive to our community flying a flag. It was all about being respectful and flying the flag according to the U.S. code."
He's glad his firefighters are getting support on this, glad the community is hearing about how to properly respect the flag, and that people are also raising concerns...
"They should be asking questions when the government makes decisions,"
He has a crew working toward a solution.
"You can't just go out and buy flag mounts for fire engines at a local store but what you can do is fabricate them. So we have a shop fabricating them as we speak — stainless steel flag holders."
The department will also start using a local vendor that sells American-made flags.
"So by the end of the week you can expect to see American flags flown on all of our vehicles throughout our city," he said.
Waving U.S. flags, the residents gathered just north of 70th Avenue on 113th Street in support of the firefighters, who were told by city officials that they were violating U.S. code by incorrectly displaying the flags.
"It's beyond unpatriotic," Seminole resident Rod Bullock said. "There's a lot of blood on that piece of cloth, and to tell these gentlemen they can't fly it every time they go into battle – and they go into battle – they should be able to have that flag."
Following a citizen complaint, fire department administrators say they warned the firefighters several months ago that they were flying the flag incorrectly by hanging them out of their truck windows.
According to United States code, the "Flag Code" – adopted 70 years ago – states the staff of the flag shall be firmly fixed to the chassis or clamped to the right fender.
Officials say they will allow the firefighters to display the flags, as long as they follow the code. But some residents were still angered by the decision.
"While we do not believe the act of one of our employees to display a flag was meant to be disrespectful, the flag was removed," Seminole Fire Rescue spokeswoman Alison Shanabrook said.
That didn't ease the anger for some residents who say the flags should still be displayed.
"I'm sorry it offends them," Seminole resident Katherine Durst said. "They can look away the next time firefighters come to save their lives."
Added Dave Dabney: "I think to come back with a compromise or a solution instead of a mandate to remove them would have been a much better thing to do."