IAFC officials deemed the Firehouse Dolls calendar inappropriate and stopped sales of the calendar during their exposition and conference in Dallas last week.
The calendar features bikini and lingerie-clad models in front of fire equipment, and was for sale by the models at the booth of one of their sponsors, Firecompanies.com. The models had already sold about 300 calendars when on the second day of the show, IAFC show officials asked them to stop.
"They said we're not kicking you out, just prohibiting you from selling the calendar," said owner John Shinkle. "I told them you can turn on the TV at 8 p.m. and see more skin than you see in my calendar."
Shinkle said the Firehouse Dolls have gone to many fire expos, including last year's IAFC show, and have never had a problem until now. He also wondered why the Female Firefighters of America, who also sell a calendar of women in bikinis or other sexy outfits, were permitted to keep selling their calendar at the show.
"Apparently their calendar is ok even though theirs is the same as mine," Shinkle said.
IAFC Executive Director Garry Briese disagreed about the two calendars being the same. "They're not even close," he said.
Briese said the Firehouse Dolls calendar drew complaints this year and the show's exhibit team decided that it was offensive to both men and women. He said the exhibit team looks at the calendar as well as the dress and manner of the models in the booth.
"We are extremely sensitive to both gender and ethnic issues," he said. He said the reason for the change since last year is that there appears to be a decreasing level of tolerance in what people find offensive.
"I think there's an ever-increasing awareness of the need to be careful about things like this, and the IAFC is in a leadership position," he said.
Despite their objection to the Firehouse Dolls, the IAFC exhibit team determined that the Female Firefighters of America calendar was within boundaries and that their models were appropriately dressed for the expo, Briese said.
Shinkle argued that the models from both calendars bare about the same amount of skin while selling calendars because while his show cleavage, the firefighter models wear T-shirts that often leave their stomachs showing.
He suggested that there might be some bias against his models because they are not firefighters.
Briese responded that, "Whether they are firefighters or not is of less consequence than how they are portrayed in the calendar and how they handle themselves in the booth."
Shinkle said he plans to talk to IAFC show officials to try to reach an agreement about the Dolls attending the show next year. Briese said each decision is made on a case by case basis. "If a calendar is as offensive as this one was they will be asked not to come back," he said.
An official from the Fire Department Instructors Conference, which runs another major yearly fire exposition in Indianapolis, said they have received complaints about both of the calendars, as well as one or two similar ones, attending their show.
"I know we're getting complaints about it constantly," said Exhibit Account Manager Lila Gillespie. "To be honest with you it's more trouble than it's worth. I'm constantly running around telling everybody to get dressed."
Gillespie said that for next year's show, FDIC plans to send letters to their exhibitors emphasizing the need to dress properly. Officials at Firehouse Expo, which runs the annual exposition in Baltimore, could not immediately be reached to comment on whether they have received complaints about the calendars or models.
Pam Lillard, coordinator of the Female Firefighters of America Calendar and a paid firefighter/driver operator in Miami, Florida for the past seven years, said in a prepared statement that, "We have always tried to present the ladies in the Female Firefighters of America Calendar as beautiful yes, but more importantly capable professional women firefighters, and feel we have succeeded once again in this with the production of the 2004 calendar."
She added that, "We will always have critics, competition and supporters, that is what makes America great, and at anytime I welcome any guidelines that the exhibit halls may wish to address with us."
Lillard emphasized that the Female Firefighters of America do not produce their calendar "for the glamour of being Miss May," but because the "real bottom line" is that they are proud to raise money for the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Burn Center and IAFF Burn Foundation. The calendar is produced by Friends of the Burn Center, Inc., a non-profit corporation.
"I have yet to find one person who after spending even just a moment with these beautiful children, that would not only sell a few calendars, but more than likely give their heart and souls as well," she said. "We look forward to continuing our already long-standing relationships with not only our sponsors, the exhibit halls, our supporters, and fire organizations nationwide helping us meet the 'bottom line'!"
Shinkle said a portion of the proceeds from the Firehouse Dolls calendar, which is based in Denver, Colorado, is also being used for charitable purposes. He said they are helping to raise money for a Denver firefighter who owes over $2 million in hospital expenses for his son, who was paralyzed after surgery for scoliosis.
Although the Dallas incident lost the Firehouse Dolls the sale of a few hundred calendars and left would-be buyers disappointed, it has also helped the Dolls by stirring up a little excitement, Shinkle said. The $15 calendars became a hot item and firefighters were re-selling them to each other for as much as $55, he said.
"I think it's going to give us a little more notoriety in probably a good way, because it makes people a little more curious about what was inappropriate for the show," he said.