HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — A local volunteer fire company shut down after a member’s ties to an extremist group surfaced. Haverford Township officials closed the Bon Air Fire Company after they say the fire company failed to act on the issue.
Sources tell CBS3 that not only was he a volunteer firefighter, but he was also the vice president of the fire company.
Established in 1918, the Bon Air Fire Company has served Haverford Township for more than a century. But on Wednesday evening, the fire house was effectively closed.
“At this point, the Bon Air Fire Company is out of service,” Haverford Township Police Chief John Viola said.
The issue, according to township officials, has to do with one of the volunteers. On Aug. 14, an anonymous tip came in, saying one of the firefighters had tried to become a member of a group some believe to be extreme. Sources tells CBS3 the group is called Proud Boys.
The township says the group’s tenet is that they are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world” and promoted “closed borders,” “anti-political correctness,” and “venerating the housewife.”
The volunteer allegedly admitted in an interview with the township that he attended several of the group’s gatherings and passed two of the four steps in the initiation process, including hazing. The volunteer stated he had attempted to distance himself from the group in recent months.
“It was assigned to our deputy chief and did a full background investigation and found there was no criminal activity at all,” Viola said.
Viola says the matter was then turned over to the Board of Commissioners. The board suggested the firefighter resign.
He tried to, but the Bon Air Fire Company’s board refused his resignation. So on Wednesday night, township officials met in executive session.
“The township manager’s decision was that we would remove the fire apparatus from the Bon Air Fire company and shut them down temporarily until this can be resolved,” Viola said.
Firefighting gear now hangs neatly arranged inside, with the chief’s vehicle still parked in the garage. And though there were people inside the fire hall, no one wanted to speak.
“There was a fire right here a few weeks ago. They just put it out,” one neighbor said.
“It’s sad. A 100-year-old fire company is shutting down,” said another.
Even so, neighbors say they’re comforted by the fact the township is served by four other companies all within two-and-a-half miles of the Bon Air section. The closest is just a half-mile away.
“They’re very reliable so I feel very comfortable about that,” a resident said.
The president of the Haverford Township Board of Commissioners, Andy Lewis, released a statement on the issue, saying, “as individuals and public officials, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to ensure that no tax dollars are used to support an individual or organization that is discriminatory in any way.”
The closure is indefinite. There is no word on if the fire station could reopen.
CBS3’s Greg Argos contributed to this report.