Firefighter group denied entry into St. Patrick's Day Parade - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Firefighter group denied entry into 2013 St. Patrick's Day Parade

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Our Nation's Firefighter's may not have an appeal, but the FDNY seem to be getting a second chance after the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee seemingly booted all fire departments marching under the Our Nation's Firefighter's application out of the parade.

Over the weekend, Jim Grismer, organizer of Our Nation's Firefighters, received a denial letter from the parade committee citing instances of drinking before and during the parade last year despite numerous warnings.

Late Monday afternoon, parade committee members told WTOC they had contacted the FDNY working with them and filling out a parade entry application. They would hold a press conference to address the situation, which has turned into a hot button issue online and in the community.

However, if allowed to march, it would be just the FDNY and not the group called Our Nation's Firefighters, who organizes firefighters from all over the country, including New York City, and Ireland to walk in the parade.

As WTOC first reported Monday morning, the application was denied because of numerous warnings of drinking alcohol before and during the parade, according to the denial letter received over the weekend.

Brendan Sheehan, General Chairman of the 2013 St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, told WTOC it shouldn't be a surprise to Grismer since they have warned the organizers over and over again about issues with firefighter behavior during the parade, specifically drinking alcohol. He says the banner of Our Nation's Firefighters includes more and more cities and communities, to the point where they don't know who is in their own parade. Despite promises to control the behavior, he say it continues.

The timing is what really bothers Grismer.

"This is quite a shock because this is certainly the 11th hour and less than two weeks before the parade and we get a letter telling us our application was rejected and denied," Grismer, also head of Savannah Friends of Firefighters, told WTOC. "It seems a little hypocritical and, at this point, vindictive because of the timing. They could have done this on March 18, 2012. "

Grismer is a former firefighter whose sons were with FDNY during 9-11. He organizes the out of town firefighters participation in the parade each year.

The letter states drinking before and during the parade, and repeated warnings, but Grismer says he spoke to parade officials two weeks ago about parade guidelines and there was no hint their application was in question.

With decorations already up around his house to welcome visiting firefighters, it's 2008 all over again. In January 2008, the New York firefighters were booted from the parade under similar circumstances. Grismer says if drinking happened during the parade last year, it wasn't the firefighters from his group.

"We are very sensitive and paranoid about that and it does not happen. So, I don't know who they saw," he said.

The parade committee says the firefighters who plan on coming to Savannah to march under the Our Nation's Firefighter's banner are more than welcome to come to the parade, and they respect their service. However, they can't march.

Grismer says he has a feeling those firefighters who made plans, paid travel, and expected to march in the parade will find a way to march anyway.

Carl Graziano with the FDNY was upset to find out about the denial letter, but told WTOC late Monday, he received two calls from parade committee members extending a chance to come up with a resolution to the issue. Graziano, like Grismer, says he saw no rules broken last year, but is now working with the committee to allow the New York City firefighters to take part in two weeks.

"I wish there could be a way to resolve it so everybody would be happy and we could all partake in the experience of the parade," Graziano said. "So, I look forward to working towards a resolution to make all parties happy."

Graziano has been marching in the Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade since 2005. He says it's the city, the hospitality, the people and the parade that has him and more than 30 other FDNY coming back year after year.

He frantically filled the parade application out and faxed it to committee members Monday night. The committee is expected to hold a news conference at 7:30 p.m. Monday night.

While the parade committee is working with the FDNY, Sheehan told WTOC there would be no appeal for the Our Nation's Firefighters and the decision was final.

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