I-Team: SFFD members may give no-confidence vote in chief

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The ABC7 News I-Team has learned the SFFD is reviewing an incident in which an elderly man died after an ambulance arrived too late.

Late Wednesday night, the ABC7 News I-Team learned that during a membership meeting Thursday morning, San Francisco firefighters will consider a vote of no-confidence in Chief Joanne Hayes-White. This vote comes as firefighters reviewed a call in which an ambulance took too long to respond.

The ABC7 News I-Team has confirmed the San Francisco Fire Department is reviewing an incident in which an elderly man died after an ambulance failed to respond within the required time limit. The I-Team has exclusively obtained the dispatch records from Wednesday morning's incident.

Some members of her own command staff are asking Hayes-White to step down, and Wednesday's sad incident is bound to fuel more calls for her to resign. The I-Team started to investigate after receiving a tip that the ambulance was late again.

Most of the residents at 1255 Taraval Street in San Francisco got out safely Wednesday morning, after carbon monoxide alarms went off and the fire department responded.

"I wake up to 10 firefighters in my room, but it's better than not waking up, I guess," resident David Fincher said.

Fire crews detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide and evacuated the building.

"During that process we had a medical condition occur that required CPR and I called for additional resources, ambulances," Battalion Chief Richard McGee said.

Fire department sources say they were running short of their own ambulances because they were out handling other calls, so they had to count on the private companies to respond. Dispatch records obtained by the I-Team show the first King American ambulance took 18 minutes to arrive. The maximum response time is supposed to be 10 minutes.

Could those minutes have helped an elderly man?

"An elderly gentleman, that was conscious and moving when we were evacuating, did suffer a heart attack and did unfortunately pass away," McGee said.

A long-time paramedic says heart attacks are sometimes associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. The victim was 94-year-old Aron Grabois.

Ambulance response times have been a major issue lately for Hayes-White. In past reports, the I-Team has documented people waiting 30 minutes, 40 minutes and up to two hours for an ambulance. Many in her own department are calling for Hayes-White to resign, including the battalion chiefs and the firefighters union.

On Oct. 1, SF Firefighters Union president Tom O'Connor said, "We want a chief to come in the morning, roll up sleeves, and pay attention to all the small things, who's on duty, how many ambulances do we have, what fire engines are in the shop."

A deputy chief tells me the department is looking into what happened Wednesday morning and why the ambulance was late. He promises some answers on Thursday.

Related Topics:
I-TeamSFFDvotingunionsmedical emergencycarbon monoxideambulanceSan Francisco
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