Answer Man: Why doesn’t ‘Old Glory’ fly on holidays?

December 2, 2018

Why are there no flags flying down Broadway on Veterans Day, Flag Day or any other day when we should be flying Old Glory? You can drive down most streets in small town America and the flag is flying proud and often. But not in Rochester. Years back, the fire department put them up and took them down and was glad to do it.

It took a few phone calls to flag down the right person to answer this question.

Rochester Fire Department Fire Chief Eric Kerska said he remembers being a part of that tradition when he started as a young firefighter and as he worked his way up through the ranks. However, he said the fire department stopped coordinating the flag effort because it was interfering with their role as firefighters.

“We used to put up those flags for every federal holiday,” Kerska said. “But for us to do that would take a fire company out of service, meaning they’re not able to respond to a 911 call.”

After a firefighter was hurt when he slipped and fell while putting up a flag, the department took the opportunity to take a critical look at every aspect to decide if they should continue the practice.

“Safety started the conversation, and then we did some strategic planning by stepping back and asking ourselves, ‘What are we doing and why are we doing it,’” he said. “That’s 10 times a year where you have a fire company that’s not available to save lives and protect property for three hours — an hour and a half before sunup and an hour and a half after sundown. It really comes down to resources.”

Some time between 2005 and 2010, Kerska said they made the decision to stop. He said it all came down to the fire department’s mission for the city.

“Is it the right thing to do to risk not having a trained crew to respond in four minutes or less to someone’s emergency?” Kerska asked. “The fact is, if they’re putting up flags, they can’t respond quickly and it would delay our mission.”

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