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Who squashed the Philly Fire Department’s #notonfire hashtag?

Everyone, calm down. The city might just be #notonfire once again. In case you missed it, the Philadelphia Fire Department‘s social media team launched a playful new hashtag — #notonfire — two to three months ago, and suddenly, the department’s Twitter caught some attention. The account went from roughly 600 followers to more than 1,100 […]

The Philadelphia Fire Department‘s Twitter has blown up (pun intended) since it started using the #notonfire hashtag, said Isaac Murphy-Trotzky, who helps run the department’s Twitter. Click to enlarge.

Everyone, calm down. The city might just be #notonfire once again.

In case you missed it, the Philadelphia Fire Department‘s social media team launched a playful new hashtag — #notonfire — two to three months ago, and suddenly, the department’s Twitter caught some attention.

The account went from roughly 600 followers to more than 1,100 followers and received plenty of Twitter engagement, said Isaac Murphy-Trotzky, who helps run the department’s social media efforts. The hashtag was the brainchild of firefighter Jennifer Leary, who also helps run the Fire Department’s social media.

(If you’re confused, catch some examples of the hashtag in the screenshot above.)

But last Thursday, the Fire Department announced from its Twitter and Facebook that #notonfire would be “discontinued…effective immediately.” It didn’t provide any explanation, but it did ask for suggestions for a new hashtag. Public (social media) outcry ensued.

If you don’t believe us, check out this Storify of some of the tweets that people sent about #notonfire’s demise.

//storify.com/julianareyes/philly-responds-to-the-fire-department-discontinui.js[View the story “Philly responds to the Fire Department discontinuing #notonfire” on Storify]

So what happened? When we originally asked Battalion Chief Anthony Hudgins about the matter, he declined to comment. Hudgins oversees the Fire Prevention Unit, where the Fire Department’s social media team works.

Shortly after we reached out to the Mayor’s Press Office for further comment, we heard from Murphy-Trotzky that it was all one big misunderstanding “between departments.” No one actually had it out for the beloved hashtag, he said.

The following day, we even got a call from Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers who wanted to stress his support for #notonfire.

It was a misunderstanding between his Executive Chief Richard Davison and the social media team, Ayers said.  Davison was concerned about people misunderstanding the hashtag since sometimes, Ayers said, #notonfire is used to refer to washed-up celebrities. Davison wanted to make sure that the Fire Department was reaching the right people with the hashtag, Ayers said, but he did not want to end its run.

Ayers is a fan of the hashtag (though he also likes #freedomfromfire) and marveled at how it doubled the Fire Department’s Twitter following.

“You gotta love that,” he said.

Murphy-Trotzky wouldn’t immediately say if #notonfire would return, but he said it’s possible. We’ll keep you posted.

Regardless of what actually happened here, the city is clearly still grappling with its public image in light of the explosion of social media and blogging.

It’s like the time when tweeting police detective Joseph Murray disappeared from the Twittersphere because he needed to get Police Department approval for his tweeting, and residents created a petition to get him back. (Murray later returned with a more formalized Police Department Twitter handle.) Or more recently, when the City Planning Commission took down a blog post that attacked a proposed City Council bill that would tweak the city’s new zoning code.

Companies: Philadelphia Fire Department

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