[cifnmedia] Woman Named San Francisco Fire Chief

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 04:31:37 -0800 (PST)

Updated: 01-11-2004 10:38:10 AM

Woman Named San Francisco Fire Chief 

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Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Mayor Gavin Newsom tapped a veteran woman firefighter to 
take on one of the nation's most male-dominated job titles: fire chief. 

If confirmed by the San Francisco Fire Commission, which is considered 
probable, Joanne Hayes-White will head an 1,800-person department that didn't 
hire its first woman firefighter until 1987. 

``I think it sends a message to young women, little girls and women in general 
that there are no boundaries,'' Hayes-White said Saturday at an event to 
announce her appointment. ``You can do whatever you like.'' 

Hayes-White, 39, a San Francisco firefighter for 14 years, would replace 
outgoing fire chief Mario Trevino, who resigned in October but agreed to stay 
on until Newsom took office. 

As of last September, just 16 U.S. fire departments had female chiefs, and none 
of the agencies was as large as San Francisco's, according to the Web site of 
Women in the Fire Service, a non-profit group in Madison, Wis. Among the larger 
female-headed departments were those in Cobb County, Ga.; Tacoma, Wash.; and 
Little Rock, Ark. 

The only California fire agencies headed by a woman were in Davis and 

``This is a historic day in San Francisco and this is a first for the San 
Francisco Fire Department and I am proud to have the privilege of making this 
choice,'' said Newsom, who was inaugurated only two days earlier and is, at 36, 
the city's youngest mayor in more than a century. 

Newsom said he selected Hayes-White because of her support among the 
department's rank and file, familiarity with its stations and budget 

Hayes-White has worked in all of the city's 41 fire stations, and has served 
most recently its assistant deputy chief and director of training. 

Irma Herrera, executive director of Equality Rights Advocates, a San Francisco 
group that sued the department for discriminating against women in its hiring 
practices, hailed the appointment. 

``Breaking into a boys' club has been a difficult, long-term process, but the 
women persevered,'' Herrera said. 

The San Francisco Fire Department was forced to diversify its ranks in 1988 
after a U.S. District Court judge ordered the department to hire more women and 
minorities. Currently, about 230 of the city's 1,800 firefighters are women. 

Some female firefighters have voiced complaints about the department's 
male-dominated culture. In November, Kristin Odlaugh, a four-year veteran, 
filed a sexual harassment complaint, saying that drinking was common at her 
fire station and made work difficult. 


Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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