[cifnmedia] firefighters test positive for alcohol, marijuana

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Mar 2004 10:30:41 -0800 (PST)


2 firefighters test positive for alcohol, marijuana 
Copyright 2004 The Chronicle Publishing Co.   
The San Francisco Chronicle  
Two San Francisco firefighters suspended last week after a city raid on a 
firehouse in the Castro have tested positive for banned substances -- one for 
marijuana and one for alcohol -- authorities said Monday.
The raid Thursday at Station 6 on Sanchez Street was part of an investigation 
into alleged drinking on duty at the Fire Department. Two other firefighters 
and a paramedic suspended last week have tested negative for drugs and alcohol 
and have returned to work.

Capt. Pete Howes, a Fire Department spokesman, said final results were pending 
for the two firefighters who remained off duty.
Investigators with the city attorney's office have been called in at the Fire 
Department's request to lead the probe into possible on-duty drinking, but they 
weren't present when fire officials staged a surprise inspection at Station 6 
on Thursday afternoon. The station is sometimes run by Lt. John Hanley, head of 
the firefighters union, and serves the Duboce Triangle and the Castro.

Both firefighters who initially tested positive worked the same truck, one as a 
tillerman-driver and the other as the officer in charge, an acting lieutenant, 
officials said.

The driver tested positive for marijuana, while the acting lieutenant had 
alcohol in his blood beyond the Fire Department's limit of 0.02 percent. That's 
a much stricter standard than the limit at which a motorist is considered 
drunk, 0.08 percent.

The Fire Department has zero tolerance for use of alcohol or drugs on duty, 
Howes said, and anyone who is caught drinking or under the influence is subject 
to dismissal.

The tillerman-driver, William Korbus, 47, a 22-year veteran, told fire 
officials that he had been at a party the night before at which many people 
were smoking marijuana, and that he may have developed a "contact high." Korbus 
is the son of a retired assistant fire chief.

The officer of the truck, Charles Hallgren, 52, a 28-year veteran, told 
authorities that the alcohol in his system came from NyQuil. He was treated for 
a medical condition earlier in the week, firefighters said.

Neither firefighter could be reached for comment.

Hanley said Monday that the union stressed education as the best method of 
dealing with those who might have a problem with substance abuse.

"We have full faith in the system," Hanley said. "If there is a problem with 
alcohol and drugs, the union and the department advocates education and getting 
the member into recovery."

On Friday, Hanley said he had "full faith" that all five firefighters who were 
initially suspended would test negative, and he asserted that drinking in the 
firehouses was an "urban myth."

Hanley said the union backed the department's zero tolerance policy but that it 
also supports rehabilitation. He said the new chief, Joanne Hayes-White, was a 
"breath of fresh air to the department" and had signaled a change in the 
application of the zero tolerance policy.

"She understands the complications of alcohol use," he said. "Just firing the 
guy, it doesn't help the employee or the city out."E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at 


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

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