US flags ordered removed from Poughkeepsie department's fire trucks

POUGHKEEPSIE, New York (WABC) -- Fire commissioners in upstate New York have ordered a department to take American flags off its trucks, sparking a heated online debate.

The flags were removed Tuesday from the Arlington Fire District trucks in the town of Poughkeepsie following Monday's order.

Arlington Fire Commissioners Board Chairman Jim Beretta said that the majority of the board saw the flags as a possible liability, with the threat of potential injury to firefighters climbing the rig near where the flags are mounted. There was the additional risk they could distract or obscure the view of motorists.

"You can have this added, somewhat large distraction on top of everything else going on," Beretta said. "We had a concern."

The decision passed by a 3-2 vote.

The flags were recently put up at the request of union president Joseph Tarquinio.

"It's America, a little patriotism at a time when the country needs it," he said. "That's it. Supporting the country and everybody in it."

Fire Chief Tory Gallante said he's very disappointed with the order.

"It did catch me by surprise, and I'm very disappointed over their directive," he said. "You see it everywhere. We see it locally, you see it nationally. There are flags on a ton of emergency vehicles throughout the country."

Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor on Wednesday called on the board to rescind the order.

"I have spoken with firefighters and fire experts, and they have told me that there are no safety issues or potential operational problems posed by flying the flag on fire trucks," he said.

Many online commenters expressed outraged over the decision, while others argued the mounted flags violated U.S. flag code.

"This has nothing to do with liability, safety and definitely has nothing to do with the fiduciary responsibility of the board, which is to manage the taxpayers' money," fire Commissioner Kenneth Muckenhaupt said.

In light of the controversy, the board president will meet with the chief and union head Thursday in hopes of reaching a compromise that may result in Old Glory flying again.
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.