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Chief Transfers All 28 From San Francisco Firehouse After Racial Prank

January 23, 1988

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The city’s fire chief transferred all 28 firefighters from one firehouse after no one confessed to pouring glue in the office lock of a black fire inspector.

The order Friday by Acting Fire Chief Mike Farrell came a week after Fire Chief Edward Phipps resigned amid reports of continuing racial problems throughout the department.

Phipps resigned in the wake of U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel’s criticism of the department as ″out of control″ and a ″fraternity.″

″The message is that we want everybody in the firehouse to get along,″ said Assistant Chief James Olson, a spokesman for Farrell. ″We want peace and harmony and positive relationships.″

Fire Inspector Early Davis, 41, who is black, filed a harassment complaint Monday after discovering the keyhole of his office door in a Marina district firehouse jammed with hardened plastic.

An attorney for the Black Firefighters Association said the lock-jamming appeared to be a ″retaliatory measure″ for Patel’s court orders and Phipps’ resignation.

Patel’s court monitor is investigating Davis’ complaint.

Olson said none of the firefighters from Station 16 were reprimanded.

″We are not calling this a racial incident,″ he said. ″If the inspector was white or Chinese or whatever, we would have done the same thing. It was just an incident we couldn’t get a response on.″

Some of the firefighters, however, thought the punishment was too severe.

″We’re upset because they’re punishing the whole house,″ said fireman Todd Kawaguchi, 32, who has worked at Station 16 for about five years. ″It’s like a little family here. You get to know all the guys and you grow with them.″

He said some firefighters believe a vandal entered the firehouse and glued the keyhole.

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