A Pennsylvania fire company was closed by town officials on Wednesday after the company's leadership refused to address that one of its volunteer firefighters was affiliated with the extremist group the Proud Boys.
Officials in Haverford Township, in Delaware County, were informed on Aug. 12 that a volunteer with the Bon Air Fire Company was affiliated with "an organization described as an extremist group," the township's manager David Burman wrote in a statement released Thursday.
The township immediately launched an investigation, which included interviewing the volunteer, who admitted he was involved with the Proud Boys, Burman said. The volunteer revealed he had attended social gatherings hosted by the group and had passed two of the group's four initiation steps, "which includes hazing."
Burman's statement quoted the group's "self-proclaimed basic tenet," posted on their website, that they are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The proclamation belongs to the Proud Boys, who "are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which designates them as a hate group. Women and transgender men are not allowed in the group.
While the volunteer "indicated that he had attempted to distance himself from the group in recent months" Burman and a police official met with Bon Air Fire Company officials on Aug. 14 to address "the seriousness of this matter and urged the fire company to address it."
Burman said he was informed the next day that the volunteer had offered his resignation, but the Bon Air Fire Company chief had refused to accept it. A week later, Burman said he received an email that said the fire company's board had "found no basis for terminating the volunteer’s membership."
"The email included no indication that the fire company would take any action whatsoever," Burman's statement said. "The Bon Air Fire Company’s failure to address this matter conflicts with the public policy of Haverford Township, which includes ensuring that all persons are treated fairly and equally, and that all persons enjoy the full benefits of citizenship.
As of Thursday night, the Bon Air Fire Company was "relieved of duty indefinitely," Burman announced.
Four other area fire companies will service the area surrounding the Bon Air Fire Company. The nearest company is within half a mile from the Bon Air station, and the other three are within two and a half miles.
A statement from the Bon Air Fire Company said the township stripped the station of its equipment and trucks.
The statement said the company had investigated the volunteer's involvement with the "outside organization" and found that he had "limited interactions" with the group and that he had ultimately decided not to join.
"He never attended any rallies or protests, and he disassociated himself from the group more than one year ago," the statement said.
The volunteer, a six-year veteran with the company, was not identified in the statements from the company or the township.
The volunteer, who was recently honored by Bon Air Fire Company, "has always acted as a caring person dedicated to serving his community" and "has not acted in any way which suggests his behavior would be influenced by this organization," the statement said. "For these reasons, the Fire Company decided not to terminate the services of the volunteer."
The statement, written by two attorneys, lamented the closure of the station, and said the township was depriving the community of 37 firefighters and three firetrucks during emergencies. About 50,000 people live in Haverford Township.
The statement from the fire company urged residents to "please let their commissioners know that the Township is wrong to close the Bon Air Fire Company."