Arlington, New York: Town Orders American Flags Removed From Fire Trucks

The town of Arlington, New York, has ordered American flags removed from its fire trucks, a decision that prompted an outcry on social media, the Poughkeepsie Journal is reporting.

It’s not clear when the American flags were put on the Arlington fire vehicles — the Journal only says “recently” — but it seems that they were put up without first getting the permission of the Board of Fire Commissioners, which views them as a safety hazard. Arlington Fire Commissioner Chairman Jim Beretta describes the flag as a “liability during normal operations for our people and other motorists.”

Fire Chief Tory Gallante said he was disappointed with the town’s decision. Those sentiments were echoed by Union President Joseph Tarquinio.

“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.”

Gallante said the flags were put up on the fire trucks at the request of the firefighters’ union. Further, he says, he got assurances that the union would pay the cost of the flags, that the flags were maintained properly, and, most importantly, that they wouldn’t be a hazard.

At a Monday night board meeting, the flag issue came up for discussion. Two board members were fine with the flags being on the fire trucks so long as they didn’t interfere with normal operations. Three board members, however, claimed they would be a distraction to motorists and a liability to the town.

At a ceremony on Tuesday, the flags were taken down.

The decision to remove the flags generated a heated discussion on the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Facebook page.

Several readers were appalled.

Steve Simons wrote, “The ‘Board’, or whatever they call themselves should be expelled from decision making processes and be replaced by people that aren’t scared of calling themselves American and wearing or displaying the flag in any manner they choose.”

Others, however, took the side of the board and agreed that the flags represented a safety hazard.

Russell Canney explained, “I think they did the correct thing… why don’t they just paint the flag on the truck, it seems that would be the safest way to deal with the patriotic aspect of this.”

Stories about displays of the American flag often generate intense reactions in readers, particularly in cases where the flag is seen as being mistreated (for example, burned or stepped on), or where it is ordered removed (generally from a homeowner’s porch, by a town or homeowners association).

Just a few days ago, according to Fox News, a U.S. Army veteran was arrested for hanging the American flag upside down as a form of protest. Homer Martz, of Iowa, displayed the upside-down flag in protest of an oil pipeline that was being built next to a well that supplies water to his home. The cops came calling, saying his display violated Iowa’s flag desecration laws.

“They said, ‘You can’t do this. We have a statute.’ I said I’m sorry but you shouldn’t have took them down.’ So I walked back out and put them back up, and they arrested me.”

Similarly, in 2015, a Utah homeowners’ association made headlines when news broke that the group had been fining homeowners for displaying the American flag, according to the Washington Times.

Do you think the town of Arlington, New York, made the right decision in ordering American flags removed from its fire trucks?

[Image via TFoxFoto/Shutterstock]