Board votes to close Harrisburg-area fire company accused of racial discrimination

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM)– A local fire company in Swatara Township, Dauphin County has been put out of service following reports of racial discrimination.

After a long meeting Wednesday night, May 1, the Swatara Township Board of Commissioners reached a 3-2 vote to close Friendship Fire Company of Bressler.

Racial discrimination had reportedly been an issue for years at the Friendship Fire Company of Breessler.

One of the complaints surrounding the allegation dates back to 2020, when an individual with 35 years of experience in the fire department and a membership in the company’s affiliated social club stated that the station has a policy allowing only white people to join the fire company and the social club.

Previous coverage-> New details in Harrisburg-area fire company racial discrimination investigation

The following year, a member of the business community reported that while a Friendship Fire Company of Bressler representative was soliciting donations, they confirmed the discriminatory policy.

Additional complaints have been made and higher authorities — including the State Attorney General’s Office were brought in to address them. In 2022, the township says, Attorney General’s office also conducted an investigation in 2022 for similar allegations.

Warnings were given that if practices at the company did not change, the company could be forced to close. With complaints still coming in as recently as last month, the fire company was put on suspension.

After last night’s vote, some residents were left concerned about the people who rely on the fire and rescue emergency services.

“You got other fire stations which can respond, I acknowledge that but you’re taking away additional personnel that might be able to respond also,” community member Mike Farling said. “Yeah they are cutting some costs because they are going to close two buildings and not pay for them or support them anymore but what about the people who are involved.”

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Wednesday night’s meeting was packed, and many of the people who attended were opposed to closing the company.

abc27 did reach out to Michael Ibberson – the director of fire and emergency services of Swatara Township — to ask him about the vote, but has not yet heard back.

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