DARBY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) — A volunteer fire company in Pennsylvania has disbanded months after it was suspended when another fire company allegedly heard members using racial slurs and disparaging Black residents in a virtual meeting.
In a letter to Darby Township commissioners Wednesday, the Briarcliffe Fire Company announced it was shutting down.
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“The Briarcliffe Fire Company strongly denies that anyone in the township was ever treated differently or discriminated against based upon their race,” the company’s lawyer Robert Ewing wrote in the letter.
The company was suspended in February after members apparently failed to disconnect from an online meeting with local officials and the two other firehouses. In a nearly two-hour conversation, Briarcliffe firefighters allegedly bemoaned how the time had come to leave the township because Black residents continue moving into the area.
One firefighter is alleged to have mocked the name of an 8-year-old Black girl, Fanta Bility, who was killed by police gunfire in Sharon Hill last summer.
An investigation by the Delaware County district attorney determined the language was “hateful and deeply offensive,” but not criminal.
“Unfortunately in light of the frenzied public perception not based in fact, the Briarcliffe Fire Company can no longer function,” the fire company attorney wrote in the letter to township commissioners. “Their members are volunteers who do not want to continue risking their lives if they are not appreciated.”
Members of the Delaware County Black Caucus are pressing to prevent Briarcliffe’s volunteers from working with another fire company in the county, news outlets reported.