Dear PoP – What’s up with the “don’t tread on me” flag?


“Dear PoP,

We live next to the firehouse on 14th and Newton. Woke up this morning to see that they’re flying a black “don’t tread on me” flag beneath the American flag. While there is historical significance to this flag, I suspect somebody is trying to make a political statement of some kind. Which begs the question, are individual employees of the DC government allowed to make public political statements on city property? This would not be considered ethical with the Federal Government.

Firehouse Neighbor”

Hmm, what do you guys think – is the a political statement?

42 Comment

  • They run into buildings on fire. As far as I am concerned, they can make any political statement because when they come to rescue me, I don’t care if they love Glen Beck or not. They are brave people.

  • Firefighters usually get to do what they want. Cops not as much.

    It’s deeply ironic that a firehouse would have a “don’t tread on me” flag given that they are the essence of overcompensated, big government employees. I don’t say that because I disagree with their status, just that there are way more firehouses than are necessary and firemen are extremely well compensated for having almost nothing to do anymore.

    • WTF are you talking about?!? “almost nothing to do anymore”? Engine 10 in Trinidad is the busiest single piece of fire apparatus in the entire USA. Over 7,000 calls a year. Because of smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire resistant structures a majority of these are medical calls, but still, plenty of car wrecks, shootings, etc, never mind the not so uncommon “sick person” that turns out to be some dude high on pcp with no clothes on tearing the wall out of his mom’s house. Seriously – I’m sure the flag is placed without authorization, probably against some dep’t general order and will be taken down in a day or two, but “almost nothing to do anymore”? Complete and utter bs.

      • Regardless of this one engine co you speak of responding to false alarms and all that jazz. Fact remains there is a lot of thumb twiddling going on at firehouses across the nation. For obvious reasons no politician will ever suggest an overhaul of the system though. Imagine all the “911” that would get thrown around in that debate. I practically live on top of the cleveland park firestation. and THOSE guys got it good. A friend of mine lives across from the one on Laneir in adams morgan. and THOSE guys got it good. We are talking what? 50-60k to play poker and shoot hoops. and they and their entire familys have outstanding healthcare. So yeah Ironic is the word of the day.

        • I’m not sure what your talking about…I also lived across from the station on Lanier until very recently and those guys are definitely busy. They are just considerate towards the neighborhood by not turning on their sirens until they leave the block. And just because they take the time to sit outside and engage with the community on their break time doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.

          My Uncle is a service disabled NYFD Fire Chief, they have such good health care because the job is torture on the body. And as a recipient of Fire Dept help during the four alarm fire that burned 3145 Mt. Pleasant St. to the ground…I am very grateful to the DCFD.

          As for the original post, I would imagine this flag breaks a regulation and will be taken down in the near future.

        • I think anyone tasked with waiting around for the opportunity to charge into your burning house deserves to have something to take their mind off it in the meantime. What do you want them to do during their down time, pick up your trash?

          As for the number of firehouses: when your house is on fire or you are incapacitated for a medical reason, response time is everything–it’s life or death, quite literally. So if you don’t want a fire house near your house, fine by me… I’d rather pay .10 cents more in taxes and have a quick response time.

          If you want to not pay firefighters and put out a fire at your house yourself, by all means, do it up.

          • If you look at any national statistics at all, there are way fewer fires than when most firehouses were built. This is because of tougher building codes, more flame retardant materials, and fewer people falling asleep with lit cigarettes in their hands. There just aren’t as many fires as their used to be.

            The fact that a firetruck leaves the station house doesn’t mean it’s necessary. They go on medical calls when an ambulance isn’t as close. You can say that this stuff provides a vital service, but you could also get 5-6 more ambulances per firehouse running for the same cost.

            Proximity/response times to a fire are way over designed. No one can say exactly how close a firehouse should be only that they should be “closer”. Obviously you still need firehouses, but you don’t need as many firehouses as we have.

            And I’m not anti-fireman at all. I have family in firehouses. When you frame it as all or nothing, you do a disservice to the discussion. No one doesn’t want to pay fireman either. However, many many communities do just fine with volunteer firefighters. That doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city, but it is an option.

  • Agree with anon at 9:52.

    But really, would whoever sent this ‘Dear PoP’ letter have bothered if the fireman were making a political statement that matched their own views? Why have DC residents become so intolerant of expression that does match your own? Not helpful…

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I think the point is that this is not a private citizen making a comment but a government agency.

      • Exactly PoP. That’s not some private person’s flag pole. They’re brave to be sure, but they can’t appropriate public property for private means.

      • I do not agree, while this building may be funded by the government it is not strictly regulated by the government. What I mean is that if the individuals who run the firehouse decide to put up the flag, it doesnt mean that the government agrees with their statement. I doubt that there is a government auditor going around taking note of this. Even if there is a person assigned to doing this job, there is so much red-tape between an audit and the removal of the flag that as soon as its taken down they will probably just put it back up. Lets face the facts that our government is slow and not many people give a shit

        Also, I wouldn’t consider a fireman a government official. They are self-entitled and deserve to be because of there job.

        • “What I mean is that if the individuals who run the firehouse decide to put up the flag, it doesnt mean that the government agrees with their statement.”

          I get your meaning that in all likelihood the DC government does not agree with this viewpoint, though maybe some of the firefighters at the station do. But I think all government buildings are not just discouraged, but forbidden from advertising such unauthorized political views precisely because it conveys the message that it is endorsed by the government. No different than if some employees at the DC Rec. Dept., or Tax office, or Mayor’s office wanted to fly this flag on their building because they believed in the message. Those are city agencies just like the DCFD, and obviously would be forbidden from flying that flag if it wasn’t the official position of the DC government.

        • ah

          Isn’t a firehouse also something of a “house”? It’s not quite the same as an office–these guys live there for longer periods of time. It seems like perhaps a bit greater slack is in order, whether you like firefighters or not.

      • Exactly… they work for all of us. When I worked in the Federal Government those tight rules are there for a reason.

        How about Military men and women – only two wars right now. How about some free speech there.

        Come on people. Rules are Rules.

      • and I think my point is the flag would have not even caught someone’s eye were they not bothered by the actual or perceived message.

    • Nothing in the letter suggests that the writer disagrees with the intent of flying the flag…

    • I think you’re spot on with your “Why have DC residents become so intolerant of expression that does match your own?” comment.

      Besides, this flag isn’t any more political than the actual US flag.

      Face it, kids, everything is political.

      And as always, a quick thank you to the fire department.

  • I’m not sure exactly how much most firefighters make, I’ve seen news stories claiming anywhere from the 40k range up to over $250k. I suppose either and anything in between could be true, depending on jurisdiction and years on the job. But regardless, my understanding is the “Don’t tread on me” flag is a general anti-tax/anti-government interference message. I’m not sure why firefighters, whose entire personal salary and department budget are dependent on taxes for funding, and are part of government provided services, would want to advertise such a viewpoint.

    • Then your understanding is wrong. I can’t speak for the black one (and can’t quite see from the picture if there’s a rattlesnake), but the traditional yellow one with the rattlesnake and “DONT TREAD ON ME” is a symbol from the American Revolution. When the Navy was founded before we had a flag, the ships flew a version this. The rattlesnake image itself comes from Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die” political cartoon. Just because a few people in the Tea Party movement use the flag doesn’t make it a Tea Party symbol, any more than the Constitution or the American flag itself would be.

      See: for background. We used this in Scouts years before the Tea Party movement.

      • Well said John as I was about to post that same wiki article.

        I fly a Gadsden flag myself, but hardly would label myself a Teabager. You saw a lot of them attached to fire apparatus’s after 9/11.

        Far as why this station is flying one I cannot say nor will I speculate.

  • I’m pretty sure that cartoon, as explained above, was actually a call for a strong and assertive American federal government as a means to address the problems of the day. I’m unclear what (if any) political statement this is supposed to be making.

    But nobody ever accused the Beckoids for making any sense. It would be a shame if they are ignorantly usurping another part of our country’s rich history and associating it with their bigotry, etc.

  • perhaps they’re just Metallica fans.

  • Should stop flying those Rambo delusionist POW flags too. The only thing on a DC government owned flagpole should be the U.S. or District flag. Nothing else. I bet you can even find a statute that defines what’s allowed to be flown.

  • If you don’t want people treading on you, stand the fuk up. Problem solved.

  • I work for city government.

    We are not allowed to make political or religious statements at work, on work time, or using our government email addresses. Basically, you aren’t allowed to speak for the DC government, but of course, on your own property and time, you do what you want.

    Of course, like everything else in DC government, this rule is wishy washy. I get Jesusy emails sent to me in mass emails from government officials a few times a year. If whoever the boss is doesnt care, it’s likely no one else does either.

  • ah

    Hey, how about some historical perspective on what the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag represents?

    It was used primarily pre-revolution as a statement of American independence from Britain (or a desire for that). It’s not like flying the confederate battle flag.

  • I had never seen so much scorn for firefighters until I started reading PoP comments. Its unreal.

    I think a lot of you will be singing a different tune when a firefighter is pulling you and your fluffy little dog out of your burning house that started burning because your hipster roommate dropped his blunt on a pile of tofu turkey wrappers.

    • TonyS. You’re either hyper-sensitive or illiterate. No one has said boo about disliking firefighters.

  • Wow! A microcosm of how stupidly polarized America has become. Can’t we agree that running into burning buildings is good, and political grandstanding on your employer’s time (and using his property) is bad? No, I guess we can’t; everyone is either demonized or sainted, with us or against us.

    Just because your favorite infotainment talking heads act like gibbering extremist zealots for ratings purposes doesn’t mean you have to as well. Really.

  • Wait a minute. Firefighters can say and do what they want when they’re not on duty. Let’s change the context and say, for instance, that they put up a “Fenty for Mayor” flag, or a “Gray for Mayor” flag. Most people would say that wouldn’t be ok. Just because they perform a critical task doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want with the public property that they work out of.

    As for this flag, I don’t see a problem. It has a significant and well-document history in the U.S. and, despite it’s current connection with the Tea Party idiots, it and many other flags (for counties, cities, companies, etc.) are commonly flown below the U.S. flag.

    • How about a rebel flag, then? The “Stars and Bars” have a significant and well documented history in the U.S. as a symbol of regional pride. Should we allow firehouses to display those colors too?

      • the rebel flag isn’t a flag of the united states of America. its a flag representing an army that killed US soldiers and waged a war against the United States. so yeah, kinda different, than a flag that was one of the first flags of the USA.
        just because some whack job tea bagging fools fly it does not make it a controversial political statement.

        but hell, here in DC, we use “taxation without representation” on our car tags. and that IS meant to be a controversial political statement.

  • I would actually like to know if there is a current interpretation of the black Dont Tread on Me flag as opposed to the yellow Gadsdon flag.

  • Are there any readers out there who might actually just ask the Firehouse what this is all about and report back?

  • So tell big government not to provide States and Cities with the necessary money to keep our emergency services operating.

    And while your at it, tell big government to keep their hands off my Medicare!

  • Black flag is a post 9/11 flag commonly used by firefighters. The yellow flag is the “teabagger” flag, aka the traditional anti-government flag.

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