Fire Company Closed for Not Taking Action Against Member Linked to Extremist Group, Town Says - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Fire Company Closed for Not Taking Action Against Member Linked to Extremist Group, Town Says

NBC10 spoke to a member of the Bon Air Fire Company who said they were “blindsided” by the announcement and are trying to figure out their next move

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Fire Company Responds to Closure

    The Bon Air Fire Company was closed by Haverford Township officials after being accused of failing to deal with a volunteer who was allegedly tied to an extremist group. The Fire Company responded to the controversy in a released statement.

    (Published Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019)

    What to Know

    • The Bon Air Fire Company was shut down Wednesday by Haverford Township officials.

    • The officials say the fire company failed to take action against a member who was allegedly affiliated with a group described as extremist.

    • A member of the fire company told NBC10 they were "blindsided" by the decision.

    UPDATE (11:45 a.m., Sept. 5, 2019): A statement from the fire company defended its members and said in part, "When the fire company became aware of this voluinteer's interactions with the outside organization, we acted upon this information by first conducting an investigation. The investigation revealed that that volunteer is not now, nor ever was, a member of the outside organization. While the volunteer attended some social gatherings of the outside organization, the volunteer ultimately decided, after he learned more about the group's beliefs, that he did not wish to become part of the organization. He never attended any rallies or protests and he disassociated himself from the group more than one year ago."

    A Delaware County fire company was shut down after they allegedly failed to take proper action against a volunteer firefighter accused of having ties to an extremist group.

    Haverford Township officials said they first received information on Aug. 12 accusing a volunteer with the Bon Air Fire Company of being affiliated with the Proud Boys, an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group.

    The volunteer was identified as Bruce McClay by two sources, including an official close to the investigation.

    The officials interviewed the volunteer who allegedly admitted to attending several meetings with the group and passing two of the four steps in the group’s initiation process. The volunteer already indicated he had recently tried to distance himself from the group, officials said.

    NBC10 tried to contact McClay, including at his home Wednesday, but could not reach anyone. A reporter also reached out to McClay through Facebook Messenger asking for comment. The only response was "no."

    The group with which the volunteer was allegedly associated describes itself as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” with “closed borders,” “anti-political correctness” and “venerating the housewife” being among their values, according to township officials.

    On Aug. 14, Haverford Township Manager David Burman and Deputy Chief of Police Joseph Hagan met with the president and chief of the Bon Air Fire Company to discuss the investigation.

    The next day, the fire chief informed Burman that McClay had resigned. The board of the Bon Air Fire Company did not accept the resignation, however, according to officials.

    A week later, the Bon Air Fire Company solicitor sent an email to the Haverford Township solicitor indicating the board of the fire company discussed the situation but found no basis for terminating McClay's membership and would not take any action.

    “The volunteer’s participation in an organization described as an extremist group and the Bon Air Fire Company’s failure to address this matter conflicts with the public policy of Haverford Township, which includes ensuring that all persons are treated fairly and equally, and that all persons enjoy the full benefits of citizenship,” a spokesperson for Haverford Township wrote.

    The Township shut down the Bon Air Fire Company Wednesday due to the fire company board’s “failure to act.” They also took away the company's fire equipment.

    NBC10 spoke to a member of the Bon Air Fire Company who said they were “blindsided” by the announcement and are trying to figure out their next move. 

    Fire service in the Bon Air section will now be provided by the Brookline, Llanerch, Manoa and Oakmont Fire Companies, which are all within about 2.5 miles.