Thursday, October 27, 2016

The love is flagging

The closest big town to Slatington, Pennsylvania, is Wilkes-Barre. Kunkletown, Jim Thorpe (a town named for the great Olympic hero) and Danielsville are also close by.

Jim Thorpe began his athletic career at the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in Carlisle, PA, but when he died in the early 1950s, his wife Patricia was angry that officials in his native Oklahoma would not erect a memorial for she swung a deal with the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk in PA.  They built a gravesite for Thorpe and merged the towns to become Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in hopes of creating a tourist mecca that never developed.

So, I don't know what's happening in Kunkletown,  Danielsville, Wilkes-Barre or even Jim Thorpe, for that matter. But I do know that the volunteer fire chief of Slatington was fired recently for insubordination.

If you've never seen the political machinations of small towns and volunteer fire companies, you'd be amazed, and I don't know why HBO doesn't have a series based on it.  They could call it "Sirens," and Randolph Mantooth could play the fire chief, and Kirstie Alley, the mayor.

The story is that a volunteer fire lieutenant from nearby Fountain Hill passed away, and that (former) fire chief Keith Weaver asked permission from the Slatington Town Council to take the ladder truck to Fountain Hill for the funeral, at the request of that town's fire department,  This is standard at fire department funerals; two ladder trucks will be used to fly an American flag.

But what's also standard in American life is following orders and directions from superiors.  The town council told Weaver to take his crews to the funeral if he wished, but denied permission to let him take the ladder truck.

And you already guessed what he did.

The council voted 6-1 to terminate Weaver, who served in the volunteer position for 13 years. The termination was "for insubordination for Weaver taking the ladder truck out of town when he was not supposed to.  It’s about taking a firetruck out of town. You just don’t do that stuff," Councilman Jon Rinker said. "I told him you can take your men and go."  Since the primary function of the Slatington Fire Department is to provide fire protection to Slatington, you can see why, in case of a fire, having their only ladder truck 25 miles away would be a problem.

Councilman Bryon Reed, the only council member to oppose the termination, said, "No matter what, he did volunteer for many years. He donated a lot of his time to the borough and he was always there."

A member of the fire department named Jeffrey Hausman said that Weaver had "done a lot. He has always been here. My theory is it’s not fair, but the council did what they had to do. You’ve got to follow orders," Hausman said.

The trucks displaying the flag at the funeral
In order to understand this completely, one would have to know all the history and the behind-the-curtains contrivances among the councilpeople and the chief. So all I can say is, yes, the chief was right to want to take the truck to help honor the fallen comrade, but since charity begins at home, that's where the truck should have stayed.

Whether or not it's right to fire Chief Weaver for it is a whole 'nother matter.  But in Slatington, PA, that's how things go.

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