A fire department in upstate New York has been ordered to remove all American flags from their vehicles.
The Arlington Fire District removed the flags after the city of Poughkeepsie's Fire Commissions board found the flags to be a "liability during normal operations for our people and other motorists," according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
The decision to mount flags on the back of the trucks came at the request of the union, and Arlington firefighters and other local fire stations are outraged with the decision to remove them.
William H. Beale, a public information officer for Hughsonville Fire Department, was particularly outraged with Arlington's decision, saying that his department has flown flags on their vehicles since the 9/11 attacks.
"Our fire department has taken pride with displaying the flag on each of our apparatuses," said Beale to the Poughkeepsie Journal. "When it was brought to our attention that this was happening at another department, we were surprised that anyone would encourage a flag to be removed."
The decision led to a social media firestorm, according to The Associated Press. While many expressed their outrage, others believed that flying flags on the back of a fire truck violated U.S. flag code. Official U.S. flag code states that the flag can be displayed on a motorcar as long as it is "fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right fender" and not "draped over the hood, top, sides, or back of [the] vehicle."
It is unclear whether or not the Arlington fire department adhered to this code or not. But, firefighters hope that the outpouring of local support will lead the board to reconsider its decision.
"We are a month away from the 15th anniversary of 9/11,” said Beale to the Poughkeepsie Journal. “9/11 was the largest loss of firefighters’ lives in any single incident. Flying the flag on the back of a fire apparatus has become a tradition. It started with the New York City fire departments and was meant to support our country as a whole. To see anyone voluntarily ask or direct to have a flag removed from a back of a fire apparatus goes against that tradition."
The board members believed that the large flags could prove to be a distraction for other motorists and possibly interfere with normal operations.
Union President Joseph Tarquinio will comply with the board's decision, despite his outrage. "If we had to take them down, they had to be taken down the right way," he said to the Poughkeepsie Journal. "At the time when the country needs unity, to do something like this ... it's next to flag-burning in my mind."