ONLY ON ABC7NEWS.COM: Could SFFD chief leave for London?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News has learned that longtime San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White is being courted to apply to become the London Fire Department's new chief. Only a few people knew about this, but now, she's ready to make it public. The question is will she take the job if it is offered to her?

"When I got the phone call, I was a bit surprised and very intrigued," Hayes-White told ABC7 News.

The call to Hayes-White came from London, England. They asked her if she would consider applying for a soon-to-be-vacant position -- chief of the London Fire Department, or as they call it, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

Hayes-White would go from a department with 1,500 firefighters to one with 6,000 firefighters. She'd move from a city of some 800,000 residents to a metropolis of eight million people and a budget more than twice the $250 million she administers as chief here in the Bay Area.

It's a tough choice for the longest serving fire chief in the country and the only female chief of an urban fire department. She's been at the helm for 11 years and implemented many reforms.

"And then of course... my most important role is being a mom and considering my family and what any opportunity would mean to them as well," Hayes-White said.

But the chief has also had difficult times in recent years. There was a testy relationship with the firefighters union over an ambulance shortage and understaffing. Those issues resulted in a no-confidence vote last year. That was coupled with her suspensions of firefighters and assistant chiefs in the aftermath of an accident involving a fire rig and motorcycle. Ironically, those challenges may be one of the reasons why she is being approached.

"That I think that is one of the reasons why I received the call or was encouraged to apply for the position, in that I've dealt with a very political environment and a very strong presence of labor," Hayes-White said.

So is she going to apply for the job? Hayes-White told ABC7 News, "Contemplating... contemplating this time... I think that's a good way to put it."

Hayes-White says she is proud of the members of the department and feels that's one of the reasons why they approached her is because of their professionalism.

And she wanted emphasize that while she is flattered, she's focused on her job here and loves living in San Francisco. But Hayes-White also adds she's always ready for a challenge.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.