ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - An Orange County firefighter's decision to paint a confederate flag on a county-owned fire ax has resulted in a 12-hour unpaid suspension, Channel 9 has learned.
The ax was discovered at the scene of a house fire in Pine Hills.
The report claims a black man who lived at the home that was burning was already upset about the fire at his home, so when a fire department lieutenant saw the ax with the flag painted on it, he told a supervisor about it and took it away before the homeowner saw it.
A few days later, the son of Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Holton admitted he had painted the flag on the ax.
Holton told investigators he did it to "touch up" the ax at Station 42 and said to him it signified his small town roots and core values of family and hard work.
He denied being racist or intending to offend anyone.
Holton has since been placed on 12-hour unpaid suspension. He has 10 days to appeal the punishment.
Orange County's Professional Standards investigation report said the battalion chief took action immediately.
The report calls it "startling" that most other firefighters at Station 42, including supervisors who should have been doing regular equipment checks, denied ever seeing the Confederate flag.
"Either they knew and didn't say anything, or they should have known," said Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drozd.
Drozd said the investigation revealed a culture of entitlement at his busiest fire station.
He said that beginning this weekend he is breaking that up – more than half the staff is being transferred.