The Bon Air Fire Company in Haverford Township, Pennsylvania will reopen after finally accepting the resignation of a volunteer firefighter found to be a member of an extremist group, the Proud Boys.
Haverford Township shut down the Bon Air Fire Company last week when the company refused to cut ties with a volunteer, Bruce McClay, who was affiliated with the Proud Boys. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Proud Boys as a hate group due to its white nationalist, anti-Muslim and misogynist rhetoric.
In a statement the Bon Air Fire Company released, the company apologized for not initially accepting the member’s resignation.
“We agree with the Township that the board of the Bon Air Fire Company should have accepted the resignation because it is important that all volunteers who represent the Township do so free from bias and without discrimination,” it said. “In focusing on our relationship with the individual volunteer, the Fire Company did not recognize the broader impact of our decision on the Haverford community; the community which we are sworn and committed to serve.”
Haverford Township officials became aware Aug. 12 that a volunteer with the Bon Air Fire Company was affiliated with a hate group, officials said in a statement. A statement by the Bon Air Fire Company’s attorney said McClay never attended any rallies or protests and disassociated himself with the group over a year ago.
The township launched an investigation, and McClay admitted he had attended the group’s gatherings and had passed two out of four of the group’s hazing initiation steps, according to NBC.
McClay allegedly said he had tried to distance himself from the group in recent months and offered his resignation, NBC reports. The Bon Air Fire Company chief refused to accept it because he “found no basis for terminating the volunteer’s membership,” according to an email cited in the township’s statement.
Due to the inaction, Burman announced the township de-certified the Bon Air Fire Company from serving the community.
The Philadelphia Chapter of the Proud Boys made a statement, denying that they are a hate group and denouncing the decision as “foolish” and “made by ignorant, misinformed politicians.”
Proud Boys members were accused last month of inciting a riot and attacking Antifa protesters.
Upon the company announcing it parted ways with McClay, the township released another statement, saying it would reinstate the company’s duties.
“The fire trucks and apparatus will be returned to Bon Air and Bon Air will be re-certified to provide firefighting services as soon as our Township Manager so recommends to this Board,” the statement says. “In this manner, their 103-year-old tradition of serving the public can continue.”
In the midst of the controversy, community members interviewed by NBC Philadelphia said they hoped for the issue to be resolved quickly, though the township announced other fire departments in the area would be taking over Bon Air’s duties.
With the company back in business, the statement says, they will be taking action to revisit anti-discrimination policies to specifically prevent hate speech and hate group membership. It also promises a review of bylaws to support a more diverse board.
“As firefighters, we have a critical role in ensuring the safety of our community,” the statement says. “The success of the Fire Company, in turn, is rooted in the faith of the community in our members.”