Detroit Terminates Firefighter Who Brought Watermelon to Station

At first I thought this had to be a fake story, but it appears to be true. A probationary firefighter in Detroit was let go because he brought a watermelon with a pink ribbon on it to his new firehouse as a welcome gift.

The gesture offended those at the firehouse, and Robert Pattison was fired last week. The incident involved Engine 55. According to a statement released by Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, Pattison “engaged in unsatisfactory work behavior which was deemed offensive and racially insensitive to members of the Detroit Fire Department.”

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • Either there is more to the story, or there is more to the story. On its face this seems unbelievable……

  • DaGonz

    Would a black probationary firefighter be terminated for brining a box of crackers to a firehouse where the personnel were predominantly white?

    • mr618

      No, but he would have been if he brought a delightful cheese fondue.

  • Cindyanna

    Will he sue? I hope so.

  • Peter

    thanks for sharing

  • I guess my local Kroger store is really racist. They have watermelons and fried chicken, and I must be a cultural appropriator since I’m white and often enjoy both.

  • JLo

    Given that he was probationary and probably not afforded union protection, he probably has no recourse.

    On just the face of it, this appears to be PC gone awry. From my POV here’s a new guy that probably knows no one at that house. He brought in a healthy food choice that almost everyone likes (vs boxes of doughnuts) and enough for probably everyone.

    Unless this guy rolled in with a confederate flag flying from his p/u truck, had a swastika tattoo, was wearing a white hood, or there was something that showed a clear intent to offend a group of people, I think this was quite a leap. I mean he would have been working with these people and placing his life in their hands. Who would do that; it just defies logic.

    Questionable? Maybe. Unless there are more facts that haven’t been released this was a huge over reaction on the part of management.

  • Helen Fernandez

    WTF! STOP THIS INSANITY! PLEASE! I am so tired of all the whiners out there. Time to put on the big boy boxers and the big girl panties and stop being so frigin’ sensitive. Do you realize there are little children dying of cancer out there – and you’re being sensitive about a watermelon! I think you can handle a nice gesture – be it watermelon, fried chicken, etc. OMG – what kind of world am I leaving to my grandchildren. This shit has got to stop. If you have this kind of time on your hands put it to good use. Go volunteer your time – take an elderly neighbor to a doctor’s appt or to the grocery store – or just take them out for coffee. Volunteer at a hospital, spend a few hours visiting our veterans, spend a few hours boxing up groceries at your local food bank or go down to your local animal shelter and take a few dogs for a nice walk. We need to get back to some good old fashioned values.

  • firemedic5100

    I find it interesting that his academy classmates (who are black), are all standing behind him. Seems like some snowflake had a meltdown.


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