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Seminole resolves flap over flag, will display banner on fire trucks

SEMINOLE — The flag flap between this city and its firefighters has ended and the American flag will now be properly displayed on fire vehicles.

The flags will likely be mounted on the trucks by the end of this week. Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds said the city's maintenance department is making clamps so the flag can be fixed to the right front fender, as the U.S. Flag Code dictates.

"We've never taken the position that we do not want flags," Edmunds said Monday. But "if we're going to (display them), we're going to do it right."

A dispute over the flag blew up over the weekend when about 20 protesters, all friends of firefighters, waved flags for about an hour on 113th Street, near one of the city's fire stations. They were protesting an order to remove the flag from Seminole fire trucks. It was a dispute, they said, that had been brewing for months.

But Edmunds said that's not true.

"I'm not so sure that (the flag) was ever an issue," Edmunds said. "I've taken the position that it's not really so much a flag issue as it is an employee issue of taking liberties with city property without departmental approval. … There's a misconception that we had flags on all our vehicles and we've removed them. That's not the case."

Edmunds said employees were asked months ago to submit a proposal to display flags on vehicles, but that never happened. Instead, last week a firefighter put a flag in the window of a fire truck. Fire Chief George Bessler had it removed.

"It was about respect and it wasn't being done in a respectful manner," Bessler said.

Edmunds said someone posted an item on "social media that drastically escalated the issue."

Now Bessler said he's had calls from across the United States about the situation.

And Edmunds said he and the chief agree that employees must have some interest in having the flag on fire vehicles or the dispute never would have happened.

"We're going to install flags on all of our fire vehicles in accordance with the (Flag) Code," Edmunds said.

Despite the turmoil, Bessler said he sees some good in the situation. One is that Seminole's firefighters know they're supported. Another is that people are now more aware of the proper way to display the flag.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Seminole resolves flap over flag, will display banner on fire trucks 07/16/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 16, 2012 10:13pm]
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