A Pennsylvania fire company that was closed after its leadership refused to address that one of its volunteer members had been affiliated with the “Proud Boys” group has apologized and accepted the member’s resignation.
The move paves the way for the Bon Air Fire Company in Haverford Township, a township with about 48,400 residents west of Philadelphia, to reopen, the local government said in a statement Monday.
“The initial decision to refuse the resignation was a mistake,” the Bon Air Fire Company said in a statement.
The fire company said it focused on its relationship with the firefighter, who has not been identified, but the community’s response “makes clear that the faith of many of the community members in the Fire Company has been undermined. It is our responsibility to restore this trust.”
The Proud Boys has been called an extremist organization and labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The fire company acknowledged the designation of the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League in announcing its reversal.
“Membership in any hate group is unacceptable to the Bon Air Fire Company,” it said in the statement. “The Bon Air Fire Company opposes any organization which treats any person unfairly or unequally.”
The Haverford Township Board of Commissioners said in a statement Monday that the “positive actions” by the Bon Air Fire Board of Directors, which includes sensitivity training and a re-examination of its by-laws showed a board “willing to take responsibility for their actions and the poor judgment previously shown.”
The township said that fire trucks and apparatus would be returned to the fire company and that it will be re-certified to provide services as soon as the township manager recommends that action to the board.
Township manager David Burman said last week the volunteer said he attended social gatherings hosted by the Proud Boys and had passed two of the group’s four initiation steps, which included hazing.
The Bon Air Fire Company said last week that the volunteer was not ever a member of “the outside organization” and that after learning more about the group, ultimately decided he didn’t want to become a part of it and disassociated himself more than a year ago.
The Bon Air Fire Company said Monday that the volunteer’s participation in what it called a hate group “was a bad lapse in judgment” and that the resignation had been accepted.
“It is the hope of the Bon Air Fire Company that the Haverford community can move forward from this incident in the spirit of inclusivity,” the fire company said. “And that, through our ongoing actions, the Bon Air Fire Company can regain the faith of the entire Haverford Township community.”
The Bon Air Fire Company has 37 members who volunteer as firefighters. Some residents said that they thought the decision to close the company over the issue was an over-reaction.
“I thought they over-reacted from the beginning, but everything’s going to work out — we’re back in business,” Frank McVeigh told the station.