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Briarcliffe Fire Company Shut Down After Alleged Racist Comments, Jokes About Fanta Bility: 'It's Unacceptable'

DARBY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) -- A Delaware County volunteer firehouse has been shut down after racist comments were allegedly made in a virtual meeting. The Briarcliffe Firehouse was shut down hours after county officials heard of these allegations. 

It will remain closed until an investigation by the district attorney has been completed. 

Outrage is growing in Darby Township after members of the Briarcliffe Volunteer Fire Company were heard on a Zoom call using racial slurs. The firehouse was shut down after members of the Goodwill Firehouse wrote a letter to the county highlighting what they heard.

"To have these actions taken and these kinds of remarks made is just unacceptable," Councilman Richard Womack said.

Audio obtained by Eyewitness News takes you into the conversation between first responders that has this firehouse temporarily out of service.

"I was disgusted and I also was grateful that they were caught," said Ashley Dolceamore, co-founder of Delco Resists.

The voices are reportedly first responders at the Briarcliffe Fire Company in Delaware County.

According to the Goodwill Fire Company, they were still recording following a Zoom call about consolidating three volunteer firehouses in the township.

"There's no coming back from that. I stand on that. I want them shut down," Dolceamore said.

Dolceamore, along with the Goodwill Fire Company, brought the recording to light.

In a letter, it says the firefighters referred to active members as n-words, and even mentioned arson to homes on Cook Avenue. They go as far as to seemingly joke about Fanta Bility, the 8-year-old girl killed by police.

At a conference Thursday, the Delaware County District Attorney's Office says the fire company has suspended operations for 30 days while an investigation takes course.

"The township, as I indicated, with unanimity is committed to making sure that this does not happen and this does not continue and that those responsible will face whatever consequences they have," Darby Township Solicitor Michael Pierce said. 

Through their attorney, the family of Fanta Bility is also calling for disciplinary action, saying in part: "To speak of her with such disrespect shines the light of shame on those people at the fire house making the remarks."

"This is really hurtful to hear something like this. It scares me because our lives are on the line and we don't know what to do, who to go to, who to trust," concerned citizen Chrystal Bell said.

"It's just a betrayal of public trust," Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said. "How can our neighbors trust that those first responders will actually come to their aid?"

"We thank you," state Sen. Anthony Williams said. "We thank you and we recognize that some folks in that room simply will never get it, some of those folks will hold it against you, but understand something, you have back up here."

"It's unacceptable and my community will not accept it and we will fight for, and do everything we have to do until we get justice," Bell said.

Eyewitness News has been told there's a shared services agreement in place with departments across the county, so emergency calls will be answered while this investigation is being conducted.

According to Delco Resists, the co-founder read the following letter at the Darby Township Commissioners meeting Wednesday night:

This letter is in regards to a virtual meeting which was held on January 27. Briarcliffe Fire Company members thought the meeting was over, but they were still being recorded, and on the audio you can hear Briarcliffe Fire

Company members saying racial epithets. Briarcliffe Fire Company members were speaking negatively about Black residents and Black firefighters.

There was also a comment made in regards to 8-year-old Fanta Bility, who was killed by Sharon Hill Police Officers. Briarcliffe Fire Company members were making fun of the deceased child's name, comparing her name to grape and orange soda. Unfortunately, much more was said, as you will see on the attached letter.
It goes without saying that this behavior is completely despicable. These comments were made by public servants whose main priority should be the safety of their community, no matter the color of a resident's skin. Racism cannot, should not, and will not be tolerated here in Delaware County and beyond. Residents of Darby Township are calling for the suspension of the Briarcliffe Fire Company members who were recorded in this audio. Residents of Darby Township are understandably concerned for their safety.
Darby Township Commissioners held an executive session to listen to this audio recording, and upon returning from executive session, there was a motion made to suspend Briarcliffe Fire Company for 30 days and for an investigation to be opened. I am working on getting the audio clip to you, as soon as I am permitted to.
Darby Township residents do not want such blatant racism to be swept under the rug. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
CBS3's Howard Monroe, Joe Holden and Jasmine Payoute contributed to this report.
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