'Fight fires not culture wars': Fire depts blasted for spending over $19K to paint engines in pride colors
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service spent $4,972 as part of the move to promote 'equality, diversity and inclusivity'
LONDON, UK: Fire brigades across England have been blasted after allegedly spending more than £17,000 ($19,567) painting fire engines in rainbow colours. Several fire and rescue service chiefs approved the colourful paint jobs since 2017 in inclusivity and recruitment drives. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, which spent £4,320 ($4,972.32), was the highest spending brigade.
The Daily Mail reported that this paint job came from the service's annual budget, which was £23.2million ($26,703,200) in 2020/21. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue are said to have spent about a thousand pounds less. The service has an annual budget of around £61million ($70,211,000) in 2022/23, a rise from £58.5million ($67,333,500) in 2021/22.
According to a Freedom of Information request by the Sun, Suffolk Fire and Rescue spent £2,284 ($2,628.88) on rainbow-themed designs on fire engines. Suffolk fire brigade's annual budget for 2019/20 was reportedly around £21.5million ($24,746,500). About £35,000 ($40,285) more has been spent on rainbow items, including flags, across the country.
Tom Ryan from TaxPayers' Alliance criticized the spending, He said, "Taxpayers are being ripped off in the rush to be right on. Fire chiefs must understand that expensive rainbow wrappings do not help deliver heroic life-saving fire fighting services needed to save people in crisis. Fire services should fight fires not culture wars."
Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council claimed its paintwork for an older vehicle was meant to help towards its “equality, diversity and inclusion” objectives. Dorset & Wilts claimed its decoration was “beyond its operational” and rainbow colours had been chosen “to promote inclusivity”. Suffolk Fire and Rescue said the idea was a “relatively cheap way to advertise”.
The rainbow colors come from the Pride flag, which was designed by artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker in 1978. He created the design after popular gay rights leader Harvey Milk urged him to create a new symbol that the entire LGBTQIA+ community could relate to and rally behind. Only a pink triangle had symbolized the gay rights movement up until that point.