D.C. Fire Chief Theodore Coleman, with a pained look, yesterday approved the rehanging of a controversial fire department insignia with a hog's head outside Engine Company No. 8 in Southeast Washington.
"The mayor and I have discussed this issue, and to reinforce our support for the Redskins, the sign can be hung until Jan. 20th," Coleman said in a brief statement to reporters covering his visit. Clearly annoyed at the publicity the sign has prompted, he waved his hands and snapped, "That's it," to a reporter's question.
The sign was originally hung by firefighters to show pride in the department and the hometown football team, but Assistant Fire Chief Maurice Kilby ordered it removed last Sunday before the start of the NFC semifinal playoff between the Redskins and the Chicago Bears.
Firefighters said the sign -- a D.C. Fire Department insignia with a snorting hog's head painted in place of the U.S. Capitol -- was hung outside the building to show pride that Engine 8, 1520 C St. SE, is the first fire company that responds to emergencies at RFK Stadium, five blocks away. The hog's head symbolizes the Redskins' offensive line, nicknamed the Hogs.
The day after the Redskins lost to Chicago 23-19, Mayor Marion Barry went to the firehouse and promised to try to get the sign rehung, saying, "As chief booster of the Redskins, it's important to support them in victory or defeat."
That message apparently was not lost on Coleman, who before allowing the rehanging of the sign, said, "I am a Redskins fan, the same as the thousands of fans who jam RFK Stadium every Sunday."
Annette Samuels, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said that "Chief Coleman called and told him Barry that he was going to put the sign back up today, and the mayor said go ahead."
The chief's visit, which had been scheduled for weeks, was one of his regular stops at District firehouses and lasted about three minutes.
Some firefighters at the house said they were distressed that Coleman, who is viewed as a stickler on rules and regulations, apparently thought they hung the sign to embarrass him. They said the sign was part of a general effort to spruce up the outside of the firehouse, which used to be an eyesore but now glistens with fresh red and gold paint supplied by RFK Stadium. "We did it strictly to show community spirit," one firefighter said.
Firefighters said numerous callers have offered to buy the sign, but it was rehung yesterday and it will be raffled off when it comes down Jan. 20, Super Bowl Sunday. The proceeds will be donated to the Washington Hospital Center's burn unit.