San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White with Mayor Ed Lee at a City Hall ceremony in March. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White with Mayor Ed Lee at a City Hall ceremony in March. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Amid a continuing crisis over ambulance response times in the city, San Francisco firefighters unions are telling Mayor Ed Lee they want him to fire SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

In a letter signed by the heads of eight firefighter employee organizations and given to the mayor Wednesday, the unions say the Fire Department is “failing to provide timely emergency medical response on a daily basis” and blames “the direction and leadership of the current administration.”

“We’re just frustrated because all these crises that we’re facing were all foreseen crises. We knew we need more ambulances, we knew we needed more paramedics, we know we need better fire engines, we know we can do better,” Tom O’Connor, president of San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798, told reporters after an hourlong meeting with the mayor.

Supervisor London Breed, a former fire commissioner, said she is also alarmed by the poor ambulance response times and is drafting a ballot measure to address the department’s emergency medical services.

In an op-ed piece published on SFGate Wednesday, Breed reiterated a “no confidence” declaration she made last week.

“There were 374 occasions when it took more than 20 minutes for ambulances to arrive — last month alone,” Breed wrote. She noted a June finding from the Board of Supervisors’ budget and legislative analyst that, despite the Fire Department getting funding for 16 new ambulances over the last three fiscal years, not one has been purchased.

“I have lost faith in the department’s leadership, specifically its chief, to fix these problems,” Breed wrote.

But Hayes-White said she will not resign and emerged from a City Hall meeting Wednesday saying she has the mayor’s backing and is working to address the concerns.

“I know I have the support, and I’m confident that like other things we’ve had to deal with, we’ll get through it and we’ll get through it together,” she said.

O’Connor said the meeting with the mayor was fruitful and that short-term solutions are being worked on, such as providing more private ambulances.

“Our confidence is growing in our EMS system on the short-term level, but we still need to address the long-term problems,” he said.

The letter from the unions to Lee said the department has also been torn apart by “a slew of lawsuits” and called on the mayor to address their “root causes.”

San Francisco Firefighters Want Mayor to Dismiss Chief 25 September,2014Bryan Goebel


Bryan Goebel

Bryan Goebel is a reporter focused on transportation and housing issues. He was previously the editor of Streetsblog San Francisco, and an anchor/editor at KCBS Radio. He’s a lifelong Californian and has also worked at radio stations in Barstow, Redding and Sacramento.

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