updated 1/11/2007 6:32:42 AM ET 2007-01-11T11:32:42

An effort by the city’s fire department to remove unwanted pictures, posters and other items from the outside of firehouse lockers has stirred outrage among firefighters, who vowed to fight back with flags.

Union officials announced Wednesday that they planned to hand out 10,000 decals of American flags to firefighters so they could stick them on lockers in defiance of the crackdown.

But the fire department later issued a statement that sought to alleviate firefighters’ concerns.

“Over the past 18 months, the New York City Fire Department has made a concerted effort to eliminate offensive material from firehouses. However, American flags and mass cards of firefighters killed on Sept. 11, 2001, are certainly permitted.”

‘Offensive or controversial’
About two weeks ago, the department began enforcing an existing rule against posting pictures, posters, news articles or anything “offensive or controversial” in department buildings, which forced officials to scrape the personal items off locker doors, said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

He acknowledged that “something offensive” on a firefighter locker may have triggered the crackdown, but said that should not result in blanket enforcement of a policy that has been on the books for years.

“We’re tired of being treated like children,” Cassidy said.

“Treating firefighters like unruly high school students is demeaning, insulting,” said attorney Ronald Kuby, who represents the firefighters’ union.

While some firefighters are fighting and dying in Iraq, Kuby told a news conference on the steps of City Hall, “we don’t trust them to decorate their lockers?”

Many firefighters decorate their lockers with photos of loved ones, or fellow firefighters who died on Sept. 11 or in their regular line of duty. Yellow ribbons supporting the troops and American flag decals are also common.

FDNY is the largest municipal fire department in the United States, with more than 11,000 uniformed officers and firefighters.

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