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California Fire Department Takes Heat for Change in Policy Toward Flags on Uniforms

A fire department in California is getting heat for a change in its uniform that moved U.S. flags from firefighters' shoulders to their nametags.

A fire department in California is getting heat for a change in its uniform that moved U.S. flags from firefighters' shoulders to their nametags.

Ross Kelly, battalion chief of the Bakersfield City Fire Department, said the department changed its uniform policy on Feb. 1 to make the uniforms "consistent and the same" for its 180 firefighters. Equipment like belt buckles and overcoats were standardized, he said, along with new a policy pertaining to U.S. flags, which were previously embroidered on each firefighter's shoulder.

Instead of wearing a patch there that suffers frequent wear and tear, Kelly said firefighters are now permitted to wear a flag emblazoned on their nametags, similar to the flags on the uniforms of the Bakersfield City Police Department.

"We felt that was disrespectful to the flag," Kelly told FoxNews.com in regards to the damage the shoulder patches typically endured prior to replacement. "So our answer to that was to allow firefighters to display it on their nametag. It allows each employee the chance to display the flag and it stays on the uniform a lot longer."

Not everyone, however, is happy with the change. Some firemen told KGET.com that it's taken away their ability to express their patriotism.

"In the past, people were allowed to put in on the shoulder," Anthony Galagaza, president of the Bakersfield City Firefighters Union, told the website. "It was an option, and now it is not an option anymore."

FoxNews.com's messages seeking further comment from Galagaza were not immediately returned on Tuesday.

Kelly, meanwhile, said firefighters in the department were told of the change a year ago.

"We're trying to have a uniform appearance," he said. "We want to be able to honor and display the flag.  We're looking at this as a positive and it's coming across as something being taken away.  It's not an issue of patriotism at all. They still do have the option to wear it on their nameplate."

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