It was all charred ruins, morale-wise, yesterday at the little firehouse in Southeast Washington where Engine Company No. 8's firefighters had glowed with season-long gridiron passion for their heroes at nearby RFK Stadium.
And that was before the Redskins lost.
Down from fire department brass came word, shortly before game time, that a special sign mounted on the firehouse, featuring the department logo emblazoned with a Redskinesque Hog's head meticulously painted by the firefighters, had to be covered up or taken down.
It came down, along with morale, according to the firefighters.
"It's just total harassment," groused Lt. Jack B. Bryant, as he and others on his shift sat silently glued to the game, the exiled sign propped against the wall of the TV room.
The company, which is always the first to reach the stadium in emergencies, feels a special attachment to the Redskins. And vice versa. After the firefighters endured four years of peeling exteriors, the Redskins recently furnished fresh paint for the station house doors -- in colors approximating the team colors.
Yesterday's crackdown came just hours after publicity about the sign, the bold Redskin paint job and a friendly wager of 36 fire department T-shirts between Engine Company No. 8 and their counterparts in the Chicago Bears' home town.
Firefighter Kevin Stuart said that Acting Deputy Fire Chief Dennis Boatman had called the station and ordered the firefighters to take down the offending sign, which showed a hog's head where the Capitol normally appears in the department logo.
Boatman explained that he had issued the order because the department had "received calls complaining about the hog defacing the insignia."
How many calls?
The single complaint, Boatman said, was from Deputy Fire Chief Maurice Kilby. Kilby is acting chief while Chief Theodore R. Coleman is away.
Kilby was unavailable for comment yesterday.
During the third quarter of the game an alarm blared and the firefighters cleared out on the fly, leaving a haze of blue exhaust smoke in the truck bays. Twenty minutes later they were back in front of the television screen, sentiments still smoldering.
"Here we are trying to do something, bring a little pride to the neighborhood and to the firehouse," said Bryant, a 19-year veteran. "It just sort of makes you wonder."
"There's no need for it, really," said paramedic Greg Blalock.
The firefighters said that neighbors of the station at 1520 C St. SE liked the big firehouse doors decorated in Redskin paint. Likewise, the hog sign drew no complaints, they said.
In fact, they added, the sign, carefully reproduced by projecting a slide onto the sign board and hand-painting the colors, went up about six weeks ago, during the Redskins' regular season.
It passed muster when a task force of battalion chiefs held an inspection at the station on Dec. 6, according to the firefighters.
"It's in good taste," said Bryant. "I'm sure nobody would complain about it."
In a fire department roiled in recent years by allegations of reverse discrimination, the men of Engine Company No. 8 said that their morale is generally high and their relationships sound.
"This house, everybody gets along great together, all three shifts," said Bryant. "You can ask anybody in the city, no problem."
The men of Engine Company No. 8 painted the interior of the station themselves, with department-issued paint.
But the camaraderie that produced the Redskins sign, said Bryant and the others, apparently went too far.
There was no discussion about the order to dismantle the sign.
"We don't discuss," said Bryant. "It's like the Army. You do it and complain later."