Philadelphia firefighter in hot water over 'protest' photo

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Watch the report from Bob Brooks on Action News at 4 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2017. (WPVI)

The Philadelphia fire commissioner is calling it a reprehensible act. One of his firefighters posted a photo to Facebook holding a tiki torch, wearing a cowboy hat with a confederate flag. The photo caption reads: "heading to Virginia."

The post comes just days after Charlottesville, Virginia erupted in violence between neo-Nazi white nationalists and protesters.

The man in the picture is identified as John Deluisi.

What's left so many people completely stunned is John Deluisi is a veteran member of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Department officials confirm they have the picture and an investigation into it and Deluisi is underway.

Mayor Jim Kenney expressed great remorse when asked about the photo.

"It's disturbing, it's stupid. I know he regrets it, but we regret it also," said Kenney.

Firefighter Union President Ed Marks shared those sentiments.

"We condemn this highly insensitive remark that was made on a Facebook page by one of our members," Marks said.

According to Marks, what happened is Deluisi intended for the photo to be a joke, somehow meant for a friend and fellow firefighter who is African American.

"It was over the weekend and he was on his back deck with some neighbors and they were have drinks and he was sending messages, back and forth, with a friend of his who's an African American," Marks said.

Marks even says the friend was not offended.

"He took it for what it was meant to be - as a joke. He's deeply, deeply sorry and regretful for what happened," said Mark.

He also says Deluisi in no way supports white nationalists or anything related to them.

Also in response, Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel expressed his disappointment in a statement, which reads in part:

"I am utterly horrified and disgusted. Racist images, symbols, words and actions are contrary to our mission and values. The Department will follow-up with intensive and focused workplace conduct training for our more than 2,600 members. "

Marks confirms Commissioner Thiel is serious about that training.

"He's serious when he says there's gonna be training he's absolutely going to get onboard with it," he said.

That training will likely have to be part of the budget, because of this picture.

Deluisi has not been suspended. Action News is told he is still on the schedule while the investigation plays out.
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