The Burnaby firefighters union is pushing back against the firing of one of its members after he posed with three Hells Angels for a photo on social media.
The city fired Nick Elmes on June 27 after an investigation into the photo and the association of his Florian’s Knights biker club with the Hells Angels.
The controversy sprang up in early June, when the Vancouver Sun and Province reported on the photo and the fact the Knights, a Burnaby-based club made up of active and retired firefighters, had participated in rides with the Hells Angels.
B.C.’s public safety minister, the province’s anti-gang agency and city officials all expressed concern.
City manager Lambert Chu confirmed Elmes had been fired but wouldn’t say much more.
“I cannot share with you details of the investigation, as the city does not disclose details on internal disciplinary actions,” he told the NOW in an emailed statement.
Elmes, however, told the NOW the Burnaby Fire Fighters IAFF Local 323 was helping him fight the termination.
“I’ve done nothing illegal,” he said. “I’ve done nothing wrong. They couldn’t find anything wrong I did other than I was in a picture with Damiano (Dipopolo, the president of the Kelowna Hells Angels).”
Elmes had said earlier that Dipopolo was a family friend from East Vancouver, where both men grew up.
IAFF Local 323 president Jeff Clark confirmed the Burnaby firefighters union was fighting Elmes’s firing.
“We don’t agree with the termination,” he told the NOW, “and it’s in our lawyer’s hands, and that’s all we’re going to say right now. We have no comment on it.”
The Florian’s Knights motorcycle club was formed in 2016 by active and retired firefighters from Burnaby, New Westminster and Vancouver.
The organization has raised money for the B.C. Professional Firefighters’ Burn Fund through charity rides, and Elmes told the NOW in an earlier interview the Knights were just “likeminded guys on our Harleys trying to raise money and awareness at charitable rides.”
But city officials had been concerned about the club since last fall, when members began wearing their club vests or “colours” to work.
At that time, however, Chu said neither the city nor the fire department had been aware of any connection with the Hells Angels, so there had been no formal investigation.
Since the photo of Elmes with the Hells Angels became public, a number of former Florian’s Knights members have distanced themselves from the club.
Elmes said the Knights have “basically folded” locally because of the controversy, and, since the firing, he could no longer be a member anyway since only active and retired firefighters in good standing are allowed to join.