Christmas message sparks controversy at fire station

by: Dave Wagner Updated:

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OAKVILLE, Wash. - The holiday spirit is normally alive and well this time of year in Oakville, Washington.  It is a town of 700 people that is not accustomed to controversy.

When volunteer firefighters at Grays Harbor Fire District No.1 put a biblical message on their sign, someone complained.

The fire commissioner ordered the sign to come down and their Christmas tree turned off. 

“This is just sort of asinine,” said Oakville resident Richard Hawkins. Hawkins is not alone in his frustration. When the fire station posted the story on Facebook, hundreds of people responded. "They're all around the world, Australia, Sweden," said firefighter Shawn Burdett. He adds, “Merry Christmas is not a bad word.” 

The decision to put up the Christian message was made by five officers at the fire station.  While the sign and tree are on public property, they were paid for with private donations. "No tax dollars, zero,” said Burdett. 

Residents are frustrated that the voice of one, speaks louder than the voices of many. 

"I couldn't believe that one person could deny everybody Christmas," said resident Tim Newby.  Shirley George said, “The reason for Christmas is Jesus Christ, my gosh.”

On Monday night, about 200 residents met with commissioners.

"I would venture to say they would not get re-elected and I would actually venture to say they would struggle to get a vote," said firefighter Burdett.

The sign was restored after a 2-1 vote by the commissioners.