Burned: San Francisco Spurns State's Plea to Send Fire Strike Team to Battle SoCal Blaze

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While much of Southern California is currently blazing away like an old Christmas tree, we've got a little bit of a fire going on up here in San Francisco, too. It's a four-alarm blaze under John Hanley's collar.

The head of the San Francisco firefighter's union is incensed that the SFFD has spurned pleas from the State Office of Emergency Services to send a "strike team" consisting of five fire trucks and 22 firefighters to SoCal. Instead, the city has sent a single truck.

"If the city of Vallejo, which is in bankruptcy court, can send one engine down, San Francisco ought to be able to send five," said Hanley. "Our neighbor's house is burning and we've got well-trained, well-qualified guys but the chief won't let them go. It just doesn't look very good."

San Francisco's neighboring counties, meanwhile, sent multitudes of vehicles and personnel southward. Alameda County dispatched a pair of five-vehicle strike teams, as did Santa Clara, Solano, and Monterey. Santa Cruz, Contra Costa County and Marin also sent a strike team apiece, according to Emily Hopkins of the Contra Costa County Fire Department, which coordinated the regional effort. She confirmed that San Francisco has not sent a strike team.

Our calls to the San Francisco Fire Department have not yet been returned. Hanley, however, said this was a black eye for the department and blamed Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White for not stocking enough reserve vehicles for the department to be able to spare the men and machines.

"When I first came into the department [in 1980] there were 15 relief pieces. So if we sent a strike team, we would still have additional apparatuses so San Francisco doesn't get short," he says. "Well, the chief has failed to buy fire engines. We only have three to four extra relief pieces a day. That is a sad state of affairs."

This isn't the first time San Francisco has denied assistance to its burning neighbors; Hanley notes that two weeks ago the city sent only "two or so" engines to Santa Cruz instead of the requested full strike team.

The union boss lamented that a shortage of extra fire vehicles would also be disastrous in the event of, say, a major San Francisco earthquake.

In such an event, the city's neighbors would doubtlessly send help -- wouldn't they?

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