Facebook Comments Lead to Bel Air Firefighter Suspensions
Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company Chief Edward Hopkins suspended members of the fire company over "inappropriate" comments on Facebook that suggested ignoring any fire calls at Bel Air's Sonic Drive-In.
Three members of the fire company were suspended for four weeks along with a recommendation to the company Board of Directors they be terminated from the fire company, according to a blog post from Rich Gardiner, spokesman for Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association.
In addition to the three suspensions, one member was demoted from regular firefighter to entry level firefighter and placed on a year of probation, a second was demoted from lieutenant to firefighter and the remaining four were given verbal reprimands and additional work details, according to Gardiner's post.
The action stems from a Facebook thread started May 30.
On Monday, June 4, a concerned citizen emailed the fire company and local media about the Facebook posts, which were made by firefighters with the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company.
Attached to the email was a screenshot of the conversation on social media.
The posts revolved around firefighters' outrage over being denied a discount at the Bel Air Sonic Drive-In.
"Even when myself and a full engine crew are in turnout gear at Sonic for lunch, the manager still says only police and military get discounts. Cool, thanks we appreciate the support," the initial post read.
The post received 20 comments which included suggestions that someone set the business dumpster ablaze and that the fire company not respond if the business were to catch fire.
"Yea I smell a delayed response there," one user wrote.
Additional comments such as, "Let it burn," and "Wait til its on fire, then see what he says... Epic fail on sonics part [sic]," followed.
“This is unacceptable behavior of our membership," Hopkins said in the fire company blog. "I am extremely disappointed and ashamed that any of our members would make these statements. This type of activity has been dealt with swiftly. I cannot express my disappointment to these members enough."
President of the fire company, Tony Coliano, expressed similar sentiments when he spoke with WBAL.
"I'm embarrassed. I'm disappointed I have to stand in front of a camera and apologize to everyone, to firefighters everywhere, over these few individuals who believe that they are entitled to some special consideration," Coliano said in the WBALTV.com interview.
Check out the full fire company response statement on Patch.