Robert Pattison brought a large watermelon with a pink ribbon attached to a ceremony a second battalion chief calls a tradition.
“It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary,” Shawn McCarty told Detroit’s Fox affiliate. “You come in bearing gifts. The usual gift is doughnuts, but you are allowed to bring whatever you want to bring in.”
WJBK reports that the employees of Engine 55, where 90 percent of the firefighters are black, were offended by Pattison’s gesture.
Pattison, who told the station the gift was not a joke or an attempt to be offensive, was fired.
“There is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department,” Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said in a statement.