Fire Commission - September 14, 2016 - Minutes

Meeting Date: 
September 14, 2016 - 9:00am

PDF iconSeptember 14, 2016 FINAL meeting Minutes.pdf

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 9:00 a.m.
City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 416, San Francisco, California, 94102
President Covington called the meeting to order at 9:01 AM.  
Commission President Francee Covington Present  
Commission Vice President Ken Cleaveland Present
Commissioner Stephen Nakajo Present
Commissioner Michael Hardeman Present
Chief of Department Joanne Hayes-White Present
Mark Gonzales Deputy Chief – Operations
Raemona Williams Deputy Chief - Administration
Shane Francisco Homeland Security
Dan DeCossio Bureau of Fire Prevention
Jeff Columbini Division of Training
Jeff Myers EMS
Rudy Castellanos Airport Division
Assistant Chiefs
Brian Rubenstein Division 2
Mark Corso CFO
Clement Yeh Medical Director
Olivia Scanlon Communication and Outreach Coordinator
There was no public comment.
3. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES [Discussion and possible action]
Discussion and possible action to approve meeting minutes.
• Minutes from Regular Meeting on August 10, 2016.
Vice President Cleaveland Moved to approve the August 10, 2016 regular meeting Minutes.  Commissioner Hardeman Seconded.  Motion to approve above Minutes was unanimous.
• Minutes from Regular Meeting on August 24, 2016.
President Covington continued this item to the next Commission meeting as she had not had a chance to review them.
There was no public comment.
Report on current issues, activities and events within the Department since the Fire Commission meeting of August 24, 2016, including academies, strategic planning, 150th Anniversary update, special events, communications and outreach to other government agencies and the public.
Chief Hayes-White’s report covered the period following the Commission meeting on August 24, 2016, 2016.  She stated that the 120th academy is in its 13th week with 52 members.  The 121st academy is scheduled to begin on November 28, 2016 with 54 members, 12 from Station 49 and the other 42 will be off the National Testing Network list.  She added that backgrounds are currently underway for that class.  With regards to the Strategic Plan, she mentioned that a subcommittee which is comprised of the Planning and Finance Director, Mark Corso, Olivia Scanlon and Commission secretary, Maureen Conefrey, reached out to members of the Strategic Planning Committee for additional robust detail for the report, in preparation for a meeting with the Strategic Plan Committee meeting scheduled for September 21, 2016 and the goal is to get final feedback at that meeting, incorporating any changes brought forward and bring the final draft back before the Fire Commission.
She touched on the 150 Anniversary events, which included the 9/11 event which turned out very well and highlighted the unveiling of a structural piece of the World Trade Center.  She acknowledged Mr. Harry Ong whose sister Betty Ong was a hero that day as a flight attendant on Flight 11.  Mr. Ong was the person who brought to the Chief’s attention the ability to be able to request an artifact or remnant from the World Trade Center.  She also acknowledged Ms. Olivia Scanlon who helped in making that opportunity a reality, as well as all the members of the Bureau of Equipment, which is under the direction of Support Services Chief Ken Lombardi and Captain Rivera and his team in assisting with not just the event on 9/11, but all the logistics in getting the piece across the county. Chief Hayes-White also announced the civic celebration scheduled for the week of September 24 and 25, 2016 to take place at Fisherman’s Wharf and the chair of that event is retired Deputy Chief Richard Kochevar, who has been working diligently with members of Guardians of the City, including retired Lt. Bill Koenig and retired Captain Jim Lee.  Chief Hayes-White mentioned that the fireboat commissioning will be on October 17, where the name of the new fireboat will be announced, the upcoming free Film Festival at the Main Library on November 5, and 6, 2016 and a final birthday celebration on December 3, 2016 at the San Francisco Zoo for members to attend.
Chief Hayes-White acknowledged Lt. Erica Arteseros, who oversees the NERT program, and was at the White House to receive the Federal Emergency Management Agency award for the 2016 individual and community preparedness training which the NERT program was a recipient of the John D. Solomon Whole Community Preparedness Award.  She congratulated Lt. Arteseros and mentioned her passion of the NERT Program and all the instructors of the NERT program as well.  She also acknowledged Firefighter Dewayne Eckerdt who has been at the helm of the Firefighters in Safety Education (SFFISE) program for the last five years, and has been acknowledged by Firehouse Magazine as part of an honoree for their nationwide Community Service Award program as well as Station 7, who was awarded the 2015 Firehouse Magazine Unit Citation for Valor.  She added that she is proud of all those members and proud to see that they’re being nationally recognized.  She concluded her report by asking President Covington to consider adjourning the meeting in memory of Firefighter Peyton Hunter who passed away last month.
Vice President Cleaveland thanked the Chief for her comprehensive report.  He asked how many people are currently on the national testing roster.  Chief Hayes-White didn’t know specifically, but thought it was somewhere in the range of 3,000 to 3,500.  Vice President Cleaveland suggested getting feedback from the Commissioners on the Strategic Plan.  He also acknowledged how wonderful it is that the Department got a piece of the World Trade Center and looks forward to displaying it at Fire Department Headquarters when construction is completed and he hopes everyone in the city will take an opportunity to drop by and check it out, as it is a very important event for all to remember.  He also acknowledged Olivia Scanlon and member of BOE for all their help in getting that artifact for the Department.  Vice President Cleaveland suggested that during fire prevention week, the Department should put together PSA’s so the public will be made aware that it is Fire Prevention week and give tips on how to keep you place safe and focus on outreach efforts.  Chief Hayes-White responded that all of the stations that week will have signage over the station encouraging the public to come in and obtain fire prevention safety materials as well as providing fire safety advertisement in the voter pamphlets.  Vice President Cleaveland congratulated Lt. Erica Arteseros and the NERT program on the recent award.
Commissioner Nakajo also commented on the NERT program and the recognition it got along with Lt. Erica Arteseros and her accomplishments.  He also acknowledged the Ong family and extended his appreciation to Olivia Scanlon and Support Services, for their work in the getting the piece of the World Trade Center that was unveiled on 9/11.  He also confirmed that the Department will have at least two H-2 academy classes next year and the anticipated start of the 121st academy class is scheduled for November 28, 2016.  Chief Hayes-White mentioned that thanks to Mark Corso, the Department was recipient of another SAFER Grant, which is an 8.5 million dollar staffing grant, which allows funding for an additional 36 firefighters for a two-year period of time and at the end of the two years, they get absorbed and are part of the budget that needs to be addressed with the Mayor’s Budget Office.  There was brief discussion pertaining to attrition and the importance of having veteran quality and experience to mentor all the new and younger members as well as having promotional exams.
Mark Corso provided additional information on the SAFER Grant, and explained it is similar to the 2014 SAFER Grant which funded 36 of the 54 members of the 119th academy class and after two years, will be absorbed by members retiring over the next two years.
Commissioner Hardeman asked Chief Hayes-White to explain how she picks candidates off the list and if veterans had an advantage.  Chief Hayes-White explained that it’s her understanding that there is an opportunity for someone that served our country to have veteran points incorporated into their score.  She was proud to add that the last several academy classes had many members that were veterans that successfully completed the academy.  She mentioned that she has the ability to select anyone off the list, but what she has done previously, is go down to level 8, out of the 12 levels and applies several pieces of secondary criteria, pervious experience in the fire service or in the medical field, education, construction background, military; bilingual and a whole host of secondary criteria, as it is a very competitive process with very well qualified candidates.  Commissioner Hardeman complimented all involved for the lovely dedication on 9/11 at the new Safety Building/Station 4 and the Police/Fire Mass at St. Monica’s and really felt honored.
President Covington also praised the members of the Department and agreed that the ceremony on 9/11 was very touching and was a wonderful day of remembrance for the 343 firefighters who were lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center 15 years ago and she thought the relic from the World Trade Center that was unveiled was amazing.  President Covington also acknowledged Lt. Erica Arteseros for receiving the recent awards and suggested inviting her to a meeting to show them off, along with firefighter Dewayne Eckerdt and the Captain from Station 7 for the recent awards they have received.  She went on to acknowledge Mark Corso for a job well done in securing the SAFER Grant.  President Covington touched on the upcoming Fire Prevention week, October 9th through the 15th and how they can bolster prevention week, such has through a series of PSA’s that perhaps can be shown at the firehouses as members of the public visit and putting them on the website as well as smoke detector giveaways.  She also suggested providing information to the many spectators expected at the event on September 24 and 25th at Fisherman’s Wharf.  
There was no public comment.
Report on overall field operations, including greater alarm fires, mutual aid, Emergency Medical Services, Bureau of Fire Prevention & Investigation, and Airport Division.
Chief Gonzales’ report covered the month of August 2016.  He described the August 6, 2016 fire at 143-147 San Jose Avenue.  There were no injuries and the cause of the fire is still under investigation and the incident commander was Assistant Chief David Franklin.  There was a second fire on august 29, 2016 at 447-449 Minna Street.  There were no injuries and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.  The incident commander was acting Assistant Chief Kirk Richardson.  Chief Gonzales acknowledged the fine work of PIO Baxter in providing information, traffic options and safety tips to the public and media.  He also described the fire at the Ferry Building and the vehicle that jumped the sidewalk at Sutter and Market, injuring two pedestrians and the confined space rescue aboard the US Navy Vessel Guadalupe.  He recommended that the public sign up for emergency notification by texting “Alerts” to 888777.  He also mentioned that on August 15, 2016, the Bureau of Fire Prevention and PIO held a fire prevention and education presentation at 1825 Mission Street, which is a senior housing building.  It was well received and generated a lot of questions from tenants and staff.  They will continue working with community groups to set up fire prevention and education presentations throughout the city.  With regards to EMS, he announced that units are arriving on scene within 9 ½ minutes, (90th percentile) for the month of August, with a total of 5,085 transports.  Chief Gonzales announced that they have completed H-8 interviews and 56 names have been submitted to the Chief for her review.  He touched on the H-23 update and stated meetings are ongoing with DHR, the City Attorney’s Office, Local 798 and the EMS Officers Association, Plan Check, TASC, which included proposals from the SFMTA to add speed humps throughout the city, despite the Department’s opposition.  Conversations have begun with them to change existing installed speed humps to speed cushions, which the Department does not oppose.  He explained that at the Bureau of Fire Investigations, there are 98 open reports for the month of August, which reflects a reduction of eight open fire investigations reports from the previous month.
Vice President Cleaveland commended the Department of all of the work that is being done with NFPA in getting education materials out to the public in multiple languages.  He also commended the EMS Division for their rapid response in the last month.  There was brief discussion on the advantages of the H-8’s and how they have been able to sustain the staffing model and response times.  It was agreed that the H-8’s classification is a good stepping stone into the fire department for those that are interested.
Commissioner Nakajo thanked Chief Gonzales for his comprehensive report.  He commended the Department on their outreach measures to the senior housing residents and he was glad to hear that there was bilingual presentations.  He also stated his appreciation for the good news on the H-8’s, the Division of Fire Prevention and Investigations and all the permits issued and fees collected and the rest of the information that was provided in Chief Gonzales’ report.
Commissioner Hardeman thanked Chief Gonzales for his detailed report and appreciated getting it so he could review it leisurely over the weekend.  He congratulated all the leaders in the Department who responded to the 14 single fire alarms during the reporting period.  He acknowledged Mr. Richard Shaff, who recently died and was the leader of the Moscone Center since it opened.
President Covington thanked Chief Gonzales for his report.  She asked Chief Gonzales to provide updated information on the fire on Minna Street when he receives such update.  She also reminded the public that the Department does not have a height limit and one of the benefits of that is the ability to do confined space rescue as was done on the US Navy Vessel Guadalupe that was dried docked.  She also recognized all the good work being done by BFI, BFP and the PIO.  President Covington asked when the controlled substance policy will be finalized.  Chief Gonzales stated he hoped by the end of October.  She also asked for a breakdown on his list of complaints outlined in his report.  She stated she was concerned that there may be a problem with hoarding and she thinks they should be tracked.  Chief DeCossio stated he will detail the complaints in the future.  Chief DeCossio stated that as far as hoarding cases go, they are referred directly to the Accelerated Code Enforcement Captain who works in collaboration with the City Attorney, DBI, and Health Department.
There was no public comment.  
Presentation from Mr. McDowell on the different roles that volunteer firefighters have played in protecting the people of San Francisco as it commemorates with the 150th Anniversary.
Mr. McDowell introduced his helper, Mr. Ricardo Colaco.  Mr. McDowell explained that the SFFD volunteer era ended about 150 years ago, on December 3, 1866 when the steam era took full force and the horses required care be given by full time employees.  It was on that day, approximately 800 volunteer firefighters left the service and a few became career firefighters and leaders of the new paid department.  Two of the first three chiefs of the paid department, were former volunteers and a number became exempt firefighters.  He went on to describe the location of the fire companies, most located in the downtown, North Beach and Chinatown areas of the City.  He went on to explain the history over the years and stories outlined in Dennis Smith’s book “San Francisco Burning” which is about the 1906 earthquake and fire.  He mentioned that through the early years of the 20th century, the department built more stations giving better coverage throughout the city and transitioned from horses to motorized fire apparatus, which eventually led to faster response times.  By the time the Lillie Coit statute, a memorial to volunteers was dedicated in Washington Square Park in 1932, the idea of volunteer firefighters seemed quaint.  The events of December 7, 1941 changed that.  Citizens of San Francisco and the Federal Government felt that San Francisco could easily be a target and hundreds of San Francisco Firemen enlisted in the military.  By January 1942, the City had 1,250 career firefighters.  He eased into the Loma Prieta earthquake that he mentioned was a game changer.  First responders in San Francisco were stretched to the limit.  He went into detail describing the destruction caused by the quake as well as the spontaneous volunteers that came to provide help and the evolution of the NERT program.  Since then, over 25,000 citizens have been trained and he thinks it’s safe to say there are at least 10,000 still active in the NERT program.  The mission statement of NERT is “Beginning with ourselves, we will be prepared to work as an individual or together as emergency response teams to assist our families, the neighborhood, in times of disaster and be prepared to make decisions that do the most good for the most people.” He concluded by stating that San Francisco has a world class fire department, one of the best trained and best equipped.  Volunteers would be considered as support and supplement to the fire department, never a replacement for career firefighters.
Vice President Cleaveland thanked Mr. McDowell for the good history report on the reservist program and asked how many current reservist there are.  Mr. McDowell answered that there are approximately 40 service fire fighters and they have a command structure and train on a weekly basis.  The contact information/website for the Reserve Program is attached:  Vice President Cleaveland mentioned that he was looking for avenues or stepping stones for people who are interested in careers as firefighters and he thinks through the fire reserves is an excellent way to get involved.
Commissioner Nakajo thanked Mr. McDowell and Mr. Colaco for the excellent presentation and mentioned that it helps him get a visual with the historical information as well to connect the dots in terms of the Department’s rich history with the present day.
Commissioner Hardeman thanked Mr. McDowell and Mr. Colaco and mentioned what a dedicated human being he was.  Commissioner Hardeman went on to describe his experience during the 89 Loma Prieta Earthquake when he was at Candlestick Park.
6. DISCUSSION ON CIVIL GRAND JURY REPORT [Discussion and possible action]
Discussion pertaining to the Civil Grand Jury Report “Fire Safety Inspections in San Francisco: A Tale of Two Departments: Department of Building Inspection & San Francisco Fire Department.
Fire Marshal Dan DeCossio gave a report on his response to the Civil Grand Jury Report.  He mentioned that the report was focused on fire safety inspections in San Francisco and looked into the inspection practices of both the Building Department and fire Department.  He stated that CGJ had 23 findings and recommendations for the Fire Department.  He gave a brief summary of the report’s conclusions and recommendations and then the focus on the current process and programs they are putting in place, have put in place, and it’s his opinion that he has addressed all of the concerns in the report.  He added that the SFFD is continuously seeking ways to improve upon existing processes and adoption of best practices to serve the citizens of San Francisco and ensure their safety.  He added that he thought it was worth noting that neither the Chief of the Department nor the Fire Marshal was at any time invited to participate or provide insight to the Grand Jury on either historical practices with regard to fire safety inspections, nor plans already underway to improve and optimize same.  He continued that there are many new and involved fire safety inspection processes and program improvement’s that have been defined, developed and are being implemented and many of the recommendations set forth in the Civil Grand Jury report were well underway before the report came out.  He went on to summarize the conclusions and recommendations and noted that SFFD and DBI do not coordinate inspections because it is not practical to coordinate field inspections with DBI, they have two different business models.  The Department’s responses are attached:
Fire Marshal DeCossio concluded by talking about the complaint process and how they are cleaning up the process and sharing the links so that it will be easy access for all to follow-up on a complaint without having to come into headquarters, and will be seen as a more transparent process.
Vice President Cleaveland thanked Chief DeCossio for his report and was upset as well when he found out neither he nor the Chief were interviewed by the Grand Jury prior to putting out their report.  He commended Chief Hayes-White and Chief DeCossio for embracing the report and taking the recommendations seriously and making reforms within the department.  For the publics information he had Chief DeCossio define what an R-2 is.  Chief DeCossio explained an R-2 is typically a multi-residential unit building with three or more units, non-transient in nature, meaning occupants are there for over 30 days.  Fire Marshal DeCossio explained the levels of violations, from priority and level of urgency to standard complaint which is more of a maintenance/administrative problem.  He explained that the new process they are putting in place will list all fire code violations, priority in one column and standard in another column and will be shared with the public.  Vice President Cleaveland expressed his appreciation for the Fire Marshal setting up a new fire compliant section and thinks it will be a voice for members of the public to know what’s going on internally with complaints.  Vice President Cleaveland stated he thinks it’s admirable the way Chief DeCossio is addressing the findings and recommendations and making sure the public is included.
Commissioner Nakajo applauded Chief DeCossio on his comprehensive presentation and report and appreciates that he addressed all of the issues raised in the CGJ report.
Commissioner Hardman mentioned that he was overwhelmed at the amount of work Chief DeCossio and his staff have done to respond to the report.
President Covington expressed her appreciation for the comprehensive report and echoed the comments of her fellow commissioners.  She mentioned how Chief DeCossio took to heart everything the Grand Jury tried to present and his willingness and ability to incorporate their concerns and address them so well is very worthy.
Update on recent discussions regarding establishment of H-23 classification.
Chief Gonzales presented on this item.  He stated that the H-23 EMS Lieutenant is in the conceptual phase at this point.  There is no first level manager in the EMS Division.  He mentioned that in Suppression, there is an H-20 lieutenant that works out in the field at the fire stations; an H-22 prevention lieutenant that works with Bureau of Fire Prevention, an H-24 investigation lieutenant that works at Bureaus of Fire Investigations, and an H-28 lieutenant with works at the Division of Training.  The goal is to put the H-23 EMS lieutenant as the first level manager.  It will also provide station 49 a pathway to promotions.  He thinks many dedicated members of the department would be afforded first level manager positions if it comes to fruition.  He added that the possible duties would be administrative supervisor and they would be in charge of uniformed EMS subordinates and other auxiliary civilian personnel.  They could organize, supervise and augment the deployment of the dynamic ambulances and EMS response fleet.  They would coordinate, maintain and update work schedules and other issues associated at Station 49.  He added that the H-23 Lieutenant would maintain ambulance fleet availability, coordinate vehicle maintenance, and repair schedules.  Other possible duties could be to perform personnel management functions including performance monitoring, EMS logistics, provide operational administrative support for field personnel at Station 49 and prepare and conduct in-service and EMS related employee training related to orientation for employees, new and updated policies, procedures, and standards.  The status as of today is continuing discussions of the job classification language with the City’s Department of Human Resources, Local 798, and the City Attorney's Office.
Commissioner Hardeman asked how close they are to striking a deal.  Chief Gonzales stated that talks are amicable.  Chief Hayes-White added that the Department owes a debt of gratitude to President Covington and Vice President Cleaveland, because it is a complex model, and she thinks as they move forward, it has been very helpful having both of them at the table to understand and give their input into the discussion and she feels their participation is not only appreciated but is also making a difference.
Vice President Cleaveland thanked Chief Gonzales and Chief Hayes-White for working on this.  He thinks it’s important to have a ladder for advancement for everybody who works and serves in the SFFD, including the EMT’s.  He added that it is going to be a completely new model for advancement of EMT’s who are not paramedics or firefighters and he stated that he supports creating the H-23 lieutenant position.  VCP acknowledged Local 798 and all the other parties that are working together on making this position a reality.
Commissioner Nakajo thanked Chief Gonzales for his overview and also supports the creation of the H-23 position and acknowledged Local 798 and the administration for the work being done on getting the position activated so they can add stronger oversight and supervision to the EMS Division.
President Covington thanked Deputy Chief Gonzales, Chief of the Department, members of Station 49 and Local 798 for coming together and hammering out this issue in a collaborative effort.
Discussion on developments pertaining to restoring Battalion 5 to the field.
President Covington continued this item to the next meeting on September 28, 2016.
Update on Station 49/EMS new building developments and progress.
Chief Lombardi welcomed and introduced members of the project team from Department of Public Works, Tim Kempf, Jim Buker, Reggie Stump and Kathleen O’Day.  Chief Lombardi acknowledged how serious the Department of Public Works is, in getting the new EMS Building project finished quickly and properly.  He mentioned that the Bond was approved by the voters in June to build the facility and funding won’t be available until January, but with the smart thinking of Deputy Director of Planning and Finance, Mark Corso, funding was allocated for this year’s budget to have enough money to continue the project.  He provided information on the attached presentation on the Ambulance Deployment Facility:
He announced that the new facility will be built behind Station 9 off of Jerrold Street.  He described how two of the current buildings at the site will be demolished.  He stated that the project is moving forward rapidly and described the blue prints which are attached to the above link.  He indicated that they are trying to make a building that will last for the next 30 year and with the projected the growth of the city, how many vehicles and staff it can handle and described the design and layout.  He concluded by stating the completion date is projected some time in 2020.
Vice President Cleaveland thanked Chief Lombardi for his report and noted it is a very significant project.  He thanked the voters of San Francisco for approving the bond so that the Department can build a new EMS response headquarters.  He expressed his appreciation for the project team reaching out to the members who will be working in the facility for their input on issues and designs.  Vice President Cleaveland asked if there is any way to speed up the project without jeopardizing the quality in the construction he would urge them to do so as he feels the faster we have it, the better the citizens of the City will be served.
Commissioner Nakajo thanked Chief Lombardi and rest of the team from DPW for their hard work and concentration and intention to get the project done as soon as possible.  Commissioner Nakajo reminisced about his experience as a commissioner during the merger of the EMS with the SFFD and the growing pains that ensued with that merger.  He thanked Vice President Ken Cleaveland for his effective movement with lightning speed to get a new EMS facility.  He thanked Chief Hayes-White and the rest of the commissioners for their efforts in finally getting a new home for the EMS staff.  He also thanked the voters of San Francisco for giving their support to make this happen.
Commissioner Hardeman thanked Chief Lombardi and mentioned how talented he was.  He was glad to hear that they are keeping an open mind on design.  He also mentioned that he was glad the voters approved the bond as the new facility is long overdue and thanked Commissioner Cleaveland for getting involved as well as the Department of Public Works.  He thinks it will be great for San Francisco as well as for the morale of the members reporting each day to work at Station 49.
President Covington thanked Chief Lombardi and the entire team and everyone else who worked so hard and diligent on this project so far and acknowledged that it is going to be an immense improvement over the current situation.  She appreciated the detail in the space design and that they are making sure that there is a good flow to the building itself.
President Covington had the DPW team introduce themselves.  Tim Kempf, Project Manager for the Department of Public Works; Jim Buker. Senior Architect with Public Works; Reggie Stump, Architect from Public Works Building Design Construction and Kathleen O'Day, Project Manager also introduced themselves.
Discussion regarding agenda for the September 28, 2016 regular meeting.
• Update on Battalion 5
• Controlled substance (hold until October)
• Pier 26/Station 35 update
• Civil Grand Jury response
President Covington adjourned the meeting in the memory of retired Firefighter Payton Hunter, Jr. at 11:55 a.m.