As a result, the 41-year-old new graduate lost his job for what his boss said was discriminatory behavior.
Pattison, of Detroit, USA, brought a large watermelon – topped with a pink ribbon – for his colleagues at Engine 55.
But most of them were African-American, and some found the watermelon - long viewed as a racist symbol – offensive.
“You would have to say it was probably a bad call,” said Engine 55 firefighter Patrick Trout, local media reported.
“When you get your first detail at a firehouse, you pretty much know what you are getting yourself into.”
Pattison said it was not supposed to be a joke and he did not mean to offend anyone.
The department fired him nonetheless, with Fire Commissioner Eric Jones saying “there is zero tolerance for discriminatory behavior inside the Detroit Fire Department.”
But Second Battalion Chief Shawn McCarty is not so sure if Pattison deserved to lose his job.
“Between what he did and losing his job, there were a few things that could have been done,” McCarty said.
Doughnuts usually do the trick of introducing oneself to one’s colleagues, but trial firefighter Robert Pattison wanted to be different.