SFFD criticized for note sending strike team to battle Valley Fire

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A San Francisco Fire Commission meeting was held Thursday where firefighters spoke out against the decision by Chief Joanne Hayes-White to not send a mutual aid strike team to help crews battle the Valley Fire. (KGO-TV)

A San Francisco Fire Commission meeting was held Thursday where firefighters spoke out against the decision by San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White to not send a mutual aid strike team to help Lake County crews fight the Valley Fire.

A number of firefighters including, assistant chiefs told the commission that it was morally and professionally wrong not to respond to mutual aid to help fight the Valley Fire.

"I personally apologize for our leadership's failure to provide assistance to the residents of Lake County," San Francisco Fire Department Asst. Chief Tom Siragusa said.

It was ironic for Siragusa because he started as a firefighter 40 years ago in Middletown, Lake County, so the Valley Fire was personal.

The Valley Fire broke out September 12 when flames raged through Lake County, destroying everything in its path.

Residents were being evacuated as their homes burned.

Siragusa couldn't believe what he was hearing. "We had a neighboring county that was in the middle of the biggest disaster that they ever had," he said.

Lake County officials asked San Francisco to send a strike team with five engines, 20 firefighters and a team leader.

Siragusa went to his superiors. "We're 90 minutes away from providing help and at every turn I was told we're not going to do it," he said.

Siragusa was told that San Francisco already had a strike team at the Butte Fire in Calavaras County and Lake County was not part of the city's immediate mutual aid partner.

"Nevertheless, the chief was able to send one engine company. Now, she spent a lot of time looking for resources to be able to send up there," San Francisco Fire Police Department Spokesperson Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

She also says sending another strike team would have meant closing a fire station, which the chief can't do under a city ordinance.
But Siragusa doesn't buy that. "I would be willing absolutely to send five of them for a 12-hour period of time to go help them. That's what neighbors
do," he said.

Siragusa said what San Francisco did was like passing a lifeboat from the Titanic and not stopping.

There is a new Lake County hotline for updated information on the fire: 1-888-565-2787 You can also call the number to find support if you need help assessing your damage.

Click here to find out if you qualify for assistance

You can contact FEMA:
  • Online or from any web-enabled mobile device: DisasterAssistance.gov

  • Smartphone: m.fema.gov

  • Phone: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY: 1-800-462-7585


  • Click here for full coverage on the Valley Fire.
    PHOTOS: ABC7 News reporters at the Valley Fire
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    Related Topics:
    Valley Firebrush firewildfireevacuationnapa countysonoma countyfire deatheducationFEMAdisasterfundraisernorthern californiaSFFDMiddletownCobbKelseyvilleCalistogaCaliforniaSanta Rosa
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