SFFD Marches in 34th Annual Pride Parade,
Proudly Led by Fire Chief
By Nicol Juratovac
There are not too many communities in America where members of the local fire department would feel comfortable in marching in the annual Pride Parade. In fact, there are many cities across the country that do not even have a Pride Parade. But after all, this is San Francisco, the City of Love, where history has been known to occur right in our very own backyard.

And there they were, the City’s Bravest, led by its very own (not to mention home grown) fire chief, Joanne M. Hayes-White, marching down Market Street in celebration of the 34th Annual San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade and Celebration.

Suffice it to say, the crowd of approximately 750,000 absolutely adored her, as Chief Hayes-White marched on foot waving to a plethora of parade watchers. It should be noted that the chief walked the parade as opposed to having taken advantage of a motorized vehicle, as some local politicians did.

Doing so enabled Chief Hayes-White to not only interact with all the supportive people standing excitedly behind the barricades, some of whom who were waving emphatically as if their arms were going to fall out of their sockets; but equally important, it allowed her to interact with her firefighters, paramedics, and their friends and families, who proudly marched steps behind her.

In fact, much to the delight of all participating members of the fire department, Chief Hayes-White arrived just in time to participate in this event, a significant gesture considering that the San Francisco Fire Department Pride Parade contingency had not always been led by the fire chief.

In observation of department heads leading their department contingency, Pride Executive Director, Teddy Witherington, said, "San Francisco Pride is both a celebration and a statement. It’s a symbol of our strength and diversity that reaches across the globe. When we come out as a community for Pride, just as when we come out individually, we affirm our humanity, demanding full equality and justice."

Fittingly, this year’s theme was "Out for Justice," referring to the political and legal struggles for LGBT equality in the larger picture of the movement for social and economic justice that is the wellspring of all human rights movements. The theme acted as a reminder of what the LGBT movement is about: helping to create a just world for all.

Needless to say, each member looked dashing in their freshly dry cleaned station blues, as they prepared to make the trek on foot from Beale Street to 8th Street on a baking June day. In addition, all participating members attended the Pride Parade while off-duty, proudly displaying the San Francisco Fire Department’s LGBT presence.

All marching firefighters and paramedics were met by thousands of San Franciscans, many of whom screamed an appreciative "Thank you!" It became unequivocally clear that the LGBT community support base loves its fire department, particularly when some members of the crowd yelled out, "Rescue me!" as certain firefighters and paramedics marched by.

Indeed, the parade was an opportunity for the fire department to engage in a little innocuous entertainment, all the while it showing the City and its LGBT community that their local fire department acknowledges them and is ready, willing, and able to serve them in its efforts to remain a vital part of each San Francisco neighborhood.

A special thanks must be extended to T/Lt. Karen Heald, FF Kathleen "KC" McElheney, FF Jennifer "Jen" Mathews, FF Delainya Salstrand, FF Nicolette "Nikki" Divecchio, and FF Janeen "Gigi" Pirosko for agreeing to drive the various apparatus detailed to the parade, and Lt. Nicol Juratovac for organizing the event and acting as the liaison between the San Francisco Fire Department and the Pride Parade Coordinators.

A final special thanks must be extended to all the friends and family members who proudly marched in the San Francisco Fire Department contingency, not only for their understanding of not being able to ride on top of the apparatus in adherence to a recent department policy (instead, they were true sports by either walking beside the rigs or riding in the units), but more importantly, for their undying support of their City’s Bravest, the firefighters and paramedics of the San Francisco Fire Department.

Photo provided by Nicol Juratovac


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