One of the stories that comes up all the time in the fire service involves putting stickers on the apparatus. We take a lot of pride in our rigs. We wash them all the time, and we like to show them off. We like the lights, the sirens, and we all like when people tell us they look good. Sometimes we get into trouble when we treat them like our own vehicle and put a few stickers on them.
These sticker stories always seem to be reported to make it look like the decision to remove the sticker was unfair. How could a Fire Chief make his guys take those memorial stickers off the rigs? When you first read headlines that talk about firefighters being forced to remove a memorial or union sticker, it sounds silly. When you find out the true reason those stickers are being removed, it makes a little more sense and it makes the headline seem a little misleading. In a recent story, the memorial stickers were being removed because the Chief didn’t think it was right to have a sticker that only referred to a specific group. It seemed to exclude some firefighters lost in the line of duty that he thought should be included.
Union stickers are another touchy subject. A few years ago, we had a big deal about union stickers on our rigs. The Chief decided he wanted those stickers removed. That sounds somewhat acceptable. Union positions don’t always go along with administrative opinions. The problem with our situation was that the stickers had been in place for a long time, and they were demanded taken off after a break down in contract negotiations. This petty argument almost went to court, but after photos showed the stickers in place six months previous, the argument ended and the stickers stayed. Sorry Chief you can’t make us take the stickers off just because we had an argument. There was a new directive that prohibited anything put on the rigs without permission from the Chief.
After the attack on the World Trade Center, a lot of departments started flying big American flags off the back of the rigs. At first that looked impressive, but those flags didn’t look so good after they got dirty and worn. After a while the flags were removed, and in a lot of instances, flag stickers were added to the rigs. Most people don’t know that a flag should always be displayed as if it was charging into battle. That means the stars on the flag are always facing forward. We had a couple flags on the rigs that showed the stars on the back, and to the veterans in town that meant we were retreating. Since Americans never retreat, we replaced those on the rigs and also a few on our uniform shirts so all our flags were charging forward.
The moral of the story here is that firefighters put stickers on their personal vehicles, not on the apparatus. I will always proudly display a union logo on my car, it might get me out of a ticket. I can display my opinion on my vehicle, but there is a lot more to think about when a department adds an opinion to their rigs. Let those decisions be made by your Chief, he gets the job of answering the questions.
By John Morse
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