Open Forum

The MAIN LINE is the official publication of the San Francisco Fire Fighters’ Local 798. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of Local 798 or the San Francisco Fire Department. Members are welcome to submit Letters or Articles for publication; however the Editorial Board reserves the right to review/edit any submitted material.

H-2 Recruitment and Testing
What a Disgrace!

By Ted Corporandy

When officials finally decided to open the doors to the nation to fill the ranks of the San Francisco Fire Department with the most intelligent, competent, passionate men and women available, I rejoiced. But as soon as the rejoicing began the “Officials”, with lightning speed, inserted their heads into that dank, dark, putrid cavity of stupidity and put an end to common sense and logic.

The San Francisco Fire Depart-ment has experienced very difficult times. Promotional exams are non-existent. As a result, there is a need to bolster the ranks at all levels with the best people this nation has to offer. The entrance level is the most critical. The people we hire represent our future. How should the fire department reach out to find them? It is really very simple but apparently beyond the comprehension of some. First and foremost, recruitment should be at the direction of a member of the Fire Service, NOT a civilian. This person should have a thorough knowledge of our profession, who the players are, contacts, fire service organizations, educational institutions, and internet services to name a few. Recruitment should, at the very least, be directed at the following:

Trade Journals. Advertise in magazines such as Fire Engineering, Firehouse, American Fire Journal, and the vast array of publications available to the fire service. Why trade journals? Because firefighters and those interested in the fire service read and subscribe to them.

Educational Institutions. There are a number of colleges and universities with fire programs. There are many community colleges such as Santa Rosa JC, Columbia College, College of the Siskiyous, and Miramar College to name but a small handful that have firefighter academies and offer associate degrees. There are four-year institutions such as John Jay College in New York, Oklahoma State University, Louisiana State University, Southern Methodist University, and Cogswell College that offer Bachelors and Masters Degrees. Why educational institutions? Because the people attending WANT to be there. They are motivated and have an in-depth knowledge of the profession. If they aren’t already members of the fire service it is safe to assume it is their goal.

Organizations. There are countless fire service organizations that should be notified. The International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Society of Fire Service Instructors, International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, National Association of Hispanic Firefighters, Women in the Fire Service, National Fire Academy Alumni Association, Society of National Fire Academy Instructors, and many, many more.

Internet Services. There are literally thousands of Internet sites relating to the fire service. The Perfect Firefighter Candidate and Fire are the two biggest websites specifically aimed at people at the entrance level. Other major websites that should be targeted are Fire Engineering,,,, the, and Firefighting Why these links? Because people who want to be firefighters (those who have a clue what the job is about) access these links on a regular basis. You guessed it, these are the ones who know of, care about, and want to be a part of the greatest profession.

National Conferences. There are a number of conferences held nationwide that attract some of the most motivated people imaginable. Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC, Indianapolis), FDIC-West (Sacramento), Fire Rescue West (San Jose), Firehouse Expo (Baltimore), New York State Association of Fire Chiefs National Conference (Syracuse) and many more. Why target them? You’re kidding!

OK, so now we have a base from which to work. The question is, how many of these were targeted? I think we all know the answer.

It is established that recruitment was a dismal failure. What about the test itself? The test was laced with questions of mindless vomit, reeking of nonsensical psychobabble. How does the question “Can you count to 54?” determine the qualifications of a potential member of the San Francisco Fire Department? Does the answer to the question “Have you ever jumped for joy?” hold some kind of hidden message that separates the winners from the losers? How about that oral test? Well, that’s what it was called, anyway. An oral examination should allow candidates the opportunity to sell themselves. A dialogue occurs between the raters and the candidate to allow for a thorough examination of the candidates qualifications, motives, desire to serve, work ethic, etc. One of the raters for the SFFD oral interviews, who has spent a good deal of time with police department oral boards was heard to say “What is this? This doesn’t test anybody for anything!!!” The bottom line is that the lunatics behind the scenes who devised this exam have an agenda that is devoid of providing the citizens of San Francisco the best possible service they deserve. What I find scandalous, and I dare say criminal, about the entire process is the fact that you and I, the active members of the San Francisco Fire Department may pay the ultimate price as a result of this sickening process.

Recruitment was a joke and the test was a disgrace. But, how about the timing of the test? If you recall it was set for the weekend following the acts of war committed against the United States on September 11. This was unfortunate and obviously unavoidable. Veteran firefighters who were scheduled to take the test were committed to USAR Teams operating at the World Trade Center, or on the fireline at many of the wildfires ravaging California at the time. Most flights in the country were cancelled preventing some from traveling to San Francisco. I sent a General Form report to Chief Trevino expressing my concerns, requesting the test be delayed and that provisions be made to accommodate those people who, for valid reasons, were unable to attend. Shortly thereafter a memo was released to the troops stating the test would be held as scheduled but if there were any questions call the Exam Unit. Incensed, I called the Exam Unit to express my disappointment. They assured me that provisions had been made (probably thanks to intervention from Chief Trevino) and that people who were unable to make the test as scheduled would be allowed to take a make-up exam. True to their word, a make-up exam was provided. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Someone, ___________, you fill in the blank (a civilian would be a good guess), in their unending interest in providing the citizens of San Francisco the best possible service, their utmost respect and love for the firefighters digging for the bodies of our brothers from the carnage of the World Trade Center, their highest regard for the brothers and sisters putting their lives on the line at the California wildfires, their undying concern for the safety of San Francisco firefighters, decided it would be best not to inform these heroes that a make-up examination was scheduled to accommodate them. The result was experienced, educated firefighters, wanting to become San Francisco firefighters, were left out in the cold, stabbed in the back, betrayed! Who ever made that decision is a disgrace to humanity! I won’t ask how you sleep at night. I am sure very well. That is the way it is with the self-centered bent on following an agenda..

The recent report by the Budget Analyst noted that the fire department’s workload is dominated by emergency medical services. The recommendation is that the fire department should recruit paramedics, EMT’s and people with advanced education qualifications. The emphasis is placed on a program that would result in the recruitment of staff members more suited to the Fire Department’s “primary work activities” (i.e., EMS responses). This is not surprising coming from people in suits and ties stuffed away in some office so far removed from reality they think fires are the things they read about in the newspaper. Yes, they are correct in their analysis that the fire department has more EMS responses than fire responses. It does not take a study to figure that one out. Unfortunately, these propeller heads (PH’s) fail to realize that although we respond to more EMS runs than fires, we still have a significant number of fires to which we respond, in fact, more than most. We have been saying that for years but are ignored presumably because the PH’s think we are lying in an attempt to preserve our jobs. Even Chief Trevino, who was hired from the outside, has recognized that we have a fire problem. Fires present a far more dangerous scenario than the common EMS call. To illustrate my point, the granite memorial on the wall in the lobby of headquarters contains the names of approximately 90 firefighters who were killed in the line of duty. Not one of them died at an EMS call. It amazes me that the PH’s do not call for higher standards when recruiting for FIREFIGHTERS. I emphasize firefighter because we are, afterall, a FIRE DEPARTMENT. This our NUMBER 1 MISSION! This statement is contrary to the beliefs of some who spout their falsehoods to probationary classes that “we don’t do fires anymore”. They are liars who have zero regard for the safety of firefighters. They are interested only in furthering their cause, even at your expense.

The refusal to insist on high standards for entry-level firefighters is beyond comprehension. To those who were behind the scenes on this entire process you have spoken. We hear your words loud and clear. Your arrogance and pomposity in demeaning the fire service and its members is an outrage. In closing I would like to leave you with a famous speech that is especially fitting under the circumstances. It was probably made to address people just like you.

“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which a fireman has to do, believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that ‘Nothing can be destroyed except by fire’. We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world, which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are the defenders from fire, of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind. But, above all, our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men – the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit, our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.” - Edward F. Croker, Chief of Department, Fire Department City of New York, 1899-1911.

Sleep tight PH’s! With the next line of duty death we will know where to look first for blame.


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