Late last month, a social media firestorm was created after the country's largest fire department attempted to distance itself from a group that owns two fire apparatus used to respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The FDNY made posts to its Twitter and Facebook accounts stating that the department does not support or endorse the Remembrance Rescue Project.
Shortly after that message made it on the web, Loveland-Symmes, Ohio Deputy Fire Chief Billy Goldfeder, who is also a contributor to Firehouse Magazine, posted the information to his website FireFighterCloseCalls.com and sent it to his "The Secret List" email group.
The Facebook page for Firefighter Close Calls has over 160,000 likes.
That email and post read: "The FDNY does not support/endorse the Remembrance Rescue Project. Below is their website but it sounds like it would be best to avoid them and KEEP BACK 200 FEET...and are urged to not host them, not buy their shirts etc as their marketed intent does not appear to be genuine."
Remembrance Project Leader Chris Gantz, a Skokie, Ill. firefighter, said that the last part about the group's intent not only left them feeling betrayed, but also led to a lot of the negative reaction they've received.
"Thousands of people received the email with blatantly false information. He still hasn't posted a retraction," Gantz said, noting that his group respects everything Goldfeder has done to promote the fire service.
The FDNY has since clarified that the messages weren't intended to question the group's motivations for collecting donations, but to instead draw intention to the fact that the group continued to use the department's name and logo on restored Rescue 4 and Rescue 5 rigs after being told stop doing so.
"We're not questioning whether they are legitimate or not," FDNY spokesman Jim Long told Firehouse.com last week. "At least twice -- once when they purchased the rigs, and again in June -- they were told not to use the FDNY name or logo. We've received calls and correspondence -- mainly from members of the fire service -- asking if they are part of the FDNY and 'Do you guys support them?' No we do not and no they are not."
Gantz said the first request his group received for the logo change was on June 27 when a cease-and-desist letter was sent by a city lawyer.
After the letter was received, Gantz said they immediately began working with the lawyer to address the issues, including the use of FDNY logos on its website and the addition of a disclaimer stating that the group is not affiliated with the department.
As for the rescue trucks, Gantz said that his group wasn't dragging its feet, but was instead trying to figure out the best course of action.
"Right away, we started to make the arrangements for what we're going to do with the logos," he said." We just wanted to be able to do it respectfully in regards to the firefighters and their families."
He noted that the group's in-house design team has been working on the new logos since the letter was sent and just recently finished them.
Rescue 5 had the new logos applied last week, but since Rescue 4 was in Denver for Fire-Rescue International, the group didn't have the chance to place them on the vehicle and the FDNY logos were covered with signs that contained information about the group.
Long said that while it's good that the group has changed the logos, the FDNY's position is that they should have done so in June when they received the cease-and-desist letter or should have stopped all operations until the trademark issues were addressed.
He added that the matter is now in the hands of the city's law office.
"Not until the legal department is satisfied that they have met the requirements they have set forth will the slate be wiped clean."
Gantz said the group was under the assumption that since they were working with the lawyer and there was no deadline tied to the changes, they would have time to affix the new logos on the trucks.