Pandemic sidelined flags on 4th

Several Keizer residents took to Facebook this weekend to announce their disapproval of the lack of flags displayed by the city for on the Fourth of July.

“I was driving River Road this morning and noted the absence of our flags on this Independence Day. This was very disturbing and saddening, especially on this day,” one resident commented in a local Keizer Facebook group. It was brought to the attention of city councilor Elizabeth Smith, who admitted she did not know what happened with the flags.  

“Thank you for asking about this. I apologize for not knowing the answer immediately, but I did find out,” Smith said in the comments of the original post. “Due to Covid related issues- The [Keizer Fire District] Explorers, who usually do this for our community, were unable to put them up…”

Smith continued to say that it was unfortunate that it fell through the cracks and the city would work to prevent future oversights form happening again. She later commented that she is creating a list of volunteers to serve as a back up plan in case The Explorers are unable to do it again. People interested in volunteering should email their contact information to [email protected].

Mayor Cathy Clark also commented on the post and said, “…When we have reliable groups who do this year after year, it does not occur to us that it won’t happen until it doesn’t…”

The flags are usually put up by The Explorers, who are part of the Keizer Fire Department. They are 14- to 18-years-olds who are exploring a what a career with the fire department would look like.

“With COVID-19 this year, they have not been meeting to protect them from the higher chance of exposure here at the fire station,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Anne-Marie Storms in a statement to the Keizertimes. “The job was passed to a volunteer firefighter who is now in quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure along with six career firefighters. This staffing shortage meant we were scrambling to ensure our emergency calls were being handled, and we overlooked the flags going up.”

Storms said Keizer Fire District was made aware of the flags not being placed but were busy responding to the 29 emergency calls they received that day.

“When we overlooked putting the flags up, there was no political motive or anti-American or government stance. We are just human and overlooked the flags,” Storms said in the statement.

In the city council meeting on Monday, July 6, Smith apologized to the community for the oversight, “That was just a break down in communication … I did see a lot of people were very upset about that so I personally wanted to apologize for that and let you know that we’ll do better.”