All decorative stickers on fire helmets were verboten for a few days last week, before the fire chief grandfathered in the dozens of cancer ribbons, 9/11 memorials, Italian flags and angry-looking bulldogs that adorn Newton jakes’ headgear.
In an interoffice memo sent out Wednesday, Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix told firefighters that “helmets are to be cleaned of any patches, pins, paint or stickers.” Only reflective trapezoids that were originally part of the helmet are still allowed, LaCroix said, although he’s looking into purchasing EMT and American flag stickers that would meet safety codes.
“That’s the only way to be consistent,” LaCroix said. “The problem is everyone’s doing whatever they want ... there’s a 9/11 sticker that looks like it belongs on a car bumper.”
But according to Union President Tom Lopez, LaCroix sent out a second memo on Monday that allowed stickers like the above that were already on helmets to stay attached. Most new stickers will have to go through the chief, Lopez said.
“He’ll allow memorial stickers, but everything else needs to get his approval,” Lopez said. “He wants to make sure there’s nothing offensive in nature.”
Fire helmet decoration became a hot issue a month ago when the department told firefighter Richard Busa to stop wearing his helmet, which was completely covered by a painting of the American flag. Referring to a TAB blog post about Busa’s helmet that called for him to “hammer out a policy that has some credibility — and then enforce it uniformly,” LaCroix said the memo would put all firefighters on the same standard. He said not everyone would agree with the policy, but they would at least be on the same page, and would modify their helmets as a unit.
“If you’re patriotic, I’m all for it, but let’s do it right and not make a spectacle of it,” LaCroix said.
But firefighters have many different decorations already on their helmets. At least half the helmets in Station 3 Wednesday had stickers, ranging from 3-inch circular decals supporting Engine 4, to a red 6 placed over a large W to commemorate the six Worcester firefighters who died in1999, to the aforementioned bulldog clad in firefighter gear and brandishing an axe.
Lopez said last week that the majority of firefighters had at least one type of sticker, or a red patch of paint if they were in ladder companies. He said LaCroix had made it clear in the past that small stickers, especially memorial ones, were acceptable and he did not see a reason for changing the policy. He was glad on Monday when the second memo came out.
“I think he saw what was heading down the road and said ‘The heck with it,’” Lopez said