Fire company in Delaware County suspended after racist remarks caught on video call

An investigation will determine whether the temporary silence at the Briarcliffe Fire company becomes permanent.
GLENOLDEN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Briarcliffe Fire Company Station 75 is silent. No firetrucks and no firefighters are moving inside or outside.

It comes after the fire company was temporarily shut down following allegations of racist remarks by firefighters who thought their video call conversation was private.

The original call was to discuss the consolidation of services between the Briarcliffe, Goodwill, and Darby Township fire companies.

When county and state officials got off the call, members of the Briarcliffe Fire Company allegedly stayed on and engaged in a discussion that included racial slurs and disparaging remarks about African Americans in the area.

"A bunch of f---ing n--- down there," one man can be heard saying while discussing the all-Black Darby Township Fire Company. There were also comments about Darby's chief.

"He's just a piece of s___," one person said.

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Briarcliffe Fire Company Station 75 is silent. No firetrucks and no firefighters are moving inside or outside.



Another comment called the African American chief by a racial slur as the person speaking recalled a time when the chief was in one of Briarcliffe's vehicles to the ire of the firefighter.

"F___ S___ and he's looking in the truck," said the man on the call.

The firefighters who made the alleged comments didn't know other firefighters were on the line from the Goodwill Fire Company. One of them was Deputy Chief Tim Eichelman.

"Those things they said were very discriminatory in nature, and that's not what we stand for," said Eichelman.

There were other disparaging comments about Black firefighters being lazy.

"They didn't do s___ there," one person said of Darby firefighters.

There was also a discussion of there being too many Black people in the area.

"That's the f---ing problem," one person said. "Blacks are taking over s---."

Eichelman and his fellow firefighters knew he had to bring the comments to light.

That included sharing comments on the call that made fun of Fanta Bility. She is the 8-year-old girl killed by police gunfire.

"Fanta soda, yeah, orange or Fanta grape," one man said on the call while chuckling, even after being told that the girl was shot to death by police.

The family of Fanta Bility released this statement on the comments: "To speak of her with such disrespect, shines the light of shame on those people at the fire house making the remarks, and reflects negatively on those good and true first responders who pledge their lives to the service of all members of the community."



"How mean-spirited it was to comment on the death of an 8-year-old child," said Democratic Senator Anthony Williams of Delaware County.

"I'm appalled to have to stand here today and hear about these racist comments," said Delaware County Councilmember Richard Womack.

"Unfortunately, this isn't my first time hearing about racism within the fire departments in Delaware County," said Ashley Dolceamore, co-founder of Delco Resists. "This is the first time though that they were caught red-handed in an audio recording."

Dolceamore brought the issue to the Darby Township Commissioner, reading a letter from Goodwill Fire Company documenting the offensive comments.

The result was swift, with the Darby Township Commissioner voting to suspend the fire company.

The Briarcliffe Fire Company has been shut down for 30 days pending the investigation as Black residents wonder if their calls for help were answered fairly.

"We don't know what to do, who to go to, who to trust," said Crystal Bell of Darby Township.

"Whether or not a crime occurred, hate speech is always wrong," said Jack Stollsteimer, Delaware County District Attorney.

An investigation will determine whether the temporary silence at the Briarcliffe Fire Company becomes permanent. The township would do so by refusing to work with the company altogether.

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