Rumors have been flying for the last two weeks about three Baxter Springs firefighters who were released by the Baxter Springs Fire Department allegedly for looting in the aftermath of the May 22 tornado which devastated much of Joplin.

There has been much criticism of both the City of Baxter Springs and the Baxter Springs Fire Department.

This is unfortunate. Neither the city nor the department is trying to cover up what may or may not have happened.

They are simply doing what is proper under the circumstances. The three men involved are innocent until proven guilty, and have not at this time been arrested. To release the names prior to an arrest could irreparably damage the reputations of the men involved should it turn out there is no case.

Whatever happens it is doubly unfortunate that the Baxter Springs community is being tarred with the same brush as looters.

The actions of a few are in no way reflective of a community which has poured out itís heart and treasure to their neighbors across the border.

Nor is it fair to equate the entire department to three individuals whose criminally bad judgement led them to do something stupid.

It is clear that BSFD is angered and humiliated by what transpired. They have every right to be. Most fire departments are volunteer and the firefighters give up their time and risk their lives for no compensation simply because they feel itís the right thing to do.

Their reputation should not be tarnished because of the reprehensible actions of a few individuals who are not representative of the whole.

ó Writing for the Editorial Board,

Patrick Richardson, managing editor