After 15 Years, S.F. Fire Chief to Retire

Chief Joanne Hayes-White has steered the Fire Department through 15 years of controversy, ranging from emergency response times to Upper Market bike lanes.

(File Photo)

San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White announced her retirement plan Monday, and her replacement has yet to be selected. 

“My time serving as Chief of the Department has been a distinct honor and has been incredibly rewarding,” Hayes-White said in a statement.  “I am proud to have advanced health, wellness, and safety initiatives in our workplaces, and in partnership with the San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. I am most gratified that we are one of the most diverse Fire Departments in the world, which adds profound benefits to the ease of our service delivery to the community.”

Hayes-White has been with the Fire Department since 1990, and was appointed chief by former-Mayor Gavin Newsom nearly 15 years ago. During her tenure she’s surfed some serious controversy; the San Francisco Firefighters Local 798 has not always been a fan and repeatedly asked for her to step down

In 2014, now-Mayor London Breed also asked for Hayes-White’s resignation, after it emerged that emergency response times were horrendous. 

“I have lost faith in the department’s leadership, specifically its chief, to fix these problems. And I am not alone … the leaders of every firefighter employee group in San Francisco unanimously declared a ‘crisis of confidence’ and urged Mayor Ed Lee to relieve Chief Joanne Hayes-White immediately,” Breed wrote

But the mayor was diplomatic with Hayes-White’s announcement Monday. 

“I want to thank Chief Hayes-White for her decades of service in our Fire Department, where she worked admirably to maintain the safety and security of the people of San Francisco,” Breed said. “During her nearly fifteen years as chief, I worked with her as a fire commissioner, as a member of the Board of Supervisors, and now as mayor to strengthen and improve the department.”

Hayes-White will continue to hold the position until spring 2019, in order to give the mayor ample time to select her replacement.

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