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Stockton’s fire chief not as high on his firefighters as readers. Points out lack of masks & questions venting during TV interview

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Since December of 2011, videos of the Stockton Fire Department in action have been highly praised by the readers of The one that first caught their attention is at the bottom of this story. Our KICS (keyboard incident commanders) or, as I now call them, Last Responders, are a hard crowd to please. But the Stockton videos have been better received than videos of almost any other department we have shown you through the years.

A video of a recent fire has not received a rave review. This review comes from someone whose opinion has a lot more influence over the career of Stockton firefighters than your average reader. According to KXTV-TV, Stockton Fire Chief Jeff Piechura asked to review the station's news video and didn't like some of what he saw from Friday's fire at a vacant medical office.

Most of it concerned safety issues. Chief Piechura gave the department a B grade overall on safety and liked that a battalion chief can be heard in the video yelling at guys to get off the roof. The chief didn't like seeing guys on the roof without masks and questioned venting practices.


"They've got to have their masks on.  This guy's sucking in a lot of stuff," said Piechura.  A few firefighters without masks could be seen in the direct path of thick, dark smoke. 

"We'll have to have a discussion to correct these behaviors," Piechura said after viewing the video.

CA Stockton controversy 3

"These holes we're punching, we're feeding the fire," said Piechura as he watched the video.  "Some of the practices they're looking at, is creating small breaks in the glass, putting a nozzle through and introducing water.  We're cooling down the building and the thermal blanket dissipates." 

CA Stockton controversy 1

Jeff Piechura became Stockton fire chief in October of 2012. Piechura was the founding chief of the Northwest Fire District outside of Tucson, Arizona. A year after being hired in California, Chief Piechura was criticized by his IAFF local for remarks he made about his department at an FRI event in Chicago. He ended up apologizing (click here for the story).

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Anonymous

    Over the next 10 years, we will see a transition to the majority of time being spent learning about ventalation than hoses and pressure. 

    Just 'cuse they cut holes in the roof 50 years ago, doesn't mean we can't decide not to do it from now on.  Horses aren't pulling the steam pumpers anymore…

    • ukfbbuff

      I tend to diagree with you based on the UL/NIST Testing.

      Its been determined that Not ventilating in some situations actally increases the Hose Teams Fire Attack outcome in a posive way.

      As with anything,it depends upon the situation..


  • Volunteer for life

    They are paid guys they don't need scba. Right like guys in Balto city. They know all and are fire gods who predict the outcome and safety of the crew.

    • FMCH

      This is not a paid v volly issue. Don't make it one.

  • Captain 630

    I have been showing the resulting videos from FDNY ad LAcoFD about the results of the UL/NIST testing to the firefighters I work with.  If you don't have water being placed on the fire, don't vent.  We opt for flow control instead most of the time.  There are hundreds of video showing fire departments feeding the fire oxygen and making grow.

  • Jeff Dostalek

    Although I praise the Chief for pulling the video to identify errors, I am not a fan of calling out mistakes publicly. He may have addressed the issues with the companies on scene prior to airing the piece on TV, but it does not sound like it.   My 2$

  • NJ ff

    I noticed in the house fire video a guy riding the stick while it's being raised . We had a guy in our dept get his foot broken when his foot got caught between the moving rungs. Our department SOG is that no member rides a straight stick while it's being set up . Obviously Bucket trucks are exempt

    • Anonymous

      watch your feet

  • Fire21

    I like the transparency the Chief gives his dept.  The citizens know that the dept leader recognizes that his troops aren't perfect, but they know that the dept is striving to become better.  The reporters also know that training is ongoing.  We so often here state that we hope so-and-so dept took the video back for training…we know this one did.  I think this was well handled.

  • LaidoffJake

    Dave, thank you for the subjective coverage. You and the KICs are going to have to trust that the jakes on the roof made an informed, experienced decision to be up there after intial reports involved two kids still inside the buidling (these later proved to be false). You and the KICs also have to trust that any issues on scene or from the critique and news footage will try to be internalized as much as possible, and that you may not get the answers you may be looking for. Comment how you see fit. Thanks again. 

  • http://s Bill L.

    I spoke to firefighters at the fire.  The video does not tell the story.  It is interesting when experienced fire fighters are so quick to judge brothers when they do not know the facts.  The initial Engine Captain was told two children were inside the structure and did not make it out.  Two hose lines were stretched through the side door that the kids were last scene.  The fire was being vented to support the interior fire attack.  Once a quick search was completed, the crews retreated and transistioned to a defensive fire.  The exterior crews were softening the building to support the search.  The video is cut up and spans about one hour of fire fighting.  The conditions were not what was scene on the video when they entered the building.  The vent crew knew they had members inside searching and were doing their best to help.  The building is a two story building, not visible from the street. The crews stated they would not have made an interior attack if they had not recieved the report of children inside. 

  • Anonymous

    Some errors to this story.  The idea that these guys on the roof were venting with no hose inside is wrong.  The first line went in from a door on the east, not the front of the building.  If you look at the video, you will see the line on the ground to the left wrapping around building. There was crews inside but they were coming in from another side.  Fire rapidly increased and the ISO called them off the roof.  He was not the IC.  Also, two story building.  Initially offensive, then defensive, then offensive again once the main body of fire was knocked down.  Fire never came close to collapsing building.  Conventional constuction here, no truss. Becareful being the "Fire Critic" without all the facts.  Those guys and gals get after it in Stockton and do a hell of a job.

    • dave statter

      No one would ever mistake me for the Fire Critic. I am a bit taller than 4’11”.

      I don’t think I made any statements about what did or didn’t happen. Just relayed the news coverage. But thanks for the info.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry Dave, not talking about your story.  The story the KIC's are making.  Thanks for this website and what you do.  Much respect.

        • dave statter

          Got you. I will comment on the political/media aspects but usually stay out of the fireground issues.

  • Truckie

    That Chief is toast. He'll be job hunting soon. How dare he be concerned about the safety, life expectency, well being, of his personnel!! Those cats will throw him to the wolves!!

    • ukfbbuff

      Since i'm in California; 

      I've heard from others that he isn't "that" popular with his firefighters.

  • play4keeps

    Second, Capt 630, you were "showing videos of the UL/NIST testing."  Not every building is like the NIST testing sites.  The fire load, life hazard, and structural types were controlled for the tests.  Yes, fires do grow without communication between engine and truck co officers.  Yes, optimally, you coordinate those efforts.  That's why the job of an officer in FDNY is to carry the radio. However, in real life every place responds differently and with different problems.  Many times when a window wasnt taken out, or a roof wasn't opened, somebody got hurt or killed.  Take that to the bank.

    • Met Fan

      Testing has been conducted in many different types of structures but you're right we haven't got every one if you have some 6 story tenements we could burn them too.  I'm willing to bet venting without water will increase the heat release rate. 

      Every riding position in the FDNY has had a radio for more than 12 years. 

      Too many times we are finding when the window was taken out or the roof was opened before we have water on the seat of the fire somebody gets hurt or killed.  


    Not a big fan of the Chief making it a public issue.

    I wonder how he feels about his troops being regularly praised on here and other sites as being Sierra Hotel.  Bet mentioning things like that to the media and addressing his concerns about this job internally would play well.

  • play4keeps

    Third, I will not personally comment on this chief but I do know someone who was a Battalion Chief in the Dept.  He left a large East Coast Dept and had put out many, many fires. The bottome line was they didn't know how to handle him.  There was no conceptualization of the practices or mentality he was advocating with regard to fire attack.  The building and hazards he had experienced in combination with the tactics to make rescue and put the wet stuff on the red stuff was well received by the rank and file but upper management wanted him out.

    Like everything else,  a culture of safety vs a culture of extinguishment depend on who is you daddy and where you grew up.  For one, from what I have seen on these videos, Stockton FD operated par excellence and a chief from an AZ desert community coming in  should probably keep his mouth shut for a few more years.

  • play4keeps

    Fourth, and final answer regarding SCBA on a roof.  Most guys in the US never operate on the roofs row homes, large ordinary construction buildings  – taxpayers or apts. Anyone can climb a ladder a story or two and operate on a SFD or from a platform with a SCBA.

     I am not saying you don't need an SCBA on the roof.  However, I have seen a guy get snagged on a guy wire and fall and another swing an ax and loose his balance and fall with an SCBA on his back.  Big city guys don't like to wear the SCBA on the roof becasue they know the risk of immediate injury outweight the risk of future illness.  If you are moving from one row home to another there is a break in the buildings with a couple of stories below.  I never liked the imbalance of a bottle and a saw on my back.  Like, I said, you either know these things or you don't..

    As the bottles get lighter and the harnesses more ergo, the question will become moot but for now we are dictated by false safety and health over good common sense.

    • Fire21

      As I said in a previous post…if you have something against eye, face and lung protection, then you are the one with a problem.  As for addressing balance issues while wearing an SCBA, train, train, train.

    • Anonymous

      Looking at the cancer rates of firefighters vs. the general public, I'm wondering what common sense you are talking about.

  • Scott Koen

    The problem with fire videos is they only show one perspective for a limited time… and I agree with the others…. keep it in house

  • Fed Up With Idiots

    I think the Chief is grand standing on a subjective issue.  Everyone is watching a few videos from NIST and getting all excited.  Folks, it aint rocket science, its just coordinated fire attack, we have been talking about this for years.  NOTHING NEW AT ALL, its just that we have some good videos and statistical data to make great power points with.  God help us if NFPA starts finding ways to profit from the NIST work!

    I love to read all the comments from the fire nerd safety  corps.  For anyone not to appreciate the fact that a video is never the whole story and to hear these clowns impart their ignorance as they smear other fire agencies is great.  They are probably watching these videos from their IPad in their ambulance while they are posted on a street corner somewhere.

    Stockton FD, stay frosty and ask your chief to be more professional and not to grandstand on TV.  This aint Arizona, that crap should not fly in NorCal.

  • ukfbbuff

    My 2 cents fromCalif..

    Good video, but it is evident that it was pieced together as it moves from one Division scene  to another.

    While it does  show some operational crew errors regarding SCBA use, that should be kept for the "After Action Review" internally and Not discussed in public.

    On a fire this size, the IC and Safety Officer is responsible for enforcing the "Mask Rule".

     Since the Hose teams were in "Rescue Mode" the issue of roof ventilation becomes moot as the "Roof Group" vent team is opening up in front of/over the hose teams to release the heat and smoke and aid in visibility.

      Yet, the fire intensity does increase due to the change in flow path. Two inside hose teams was a good call..

     The Chief's comments, seem to indicate he was unaware of what was transpiring at that time of the fire.


    The City of Stockton, became a Financial "Basket Case" when the City Council, about 10 years ago decided to take the money to be invested in the Employees Retirement fund and wasted that $20 Million Dollars in a FAILED:

    Harbor Marina and Sports Staidum.

    When the economy "Tanked" and they had to finally make the required payments to Cal PERS Retirement system, the newer City Council Cried "Bankruptcy" to get out from under making the payment.

      At the last election in November the citizens voted to tax themseleves .25% sales tax over the next 10 years to help pay for the city's operational costs.

      Unfortunately, with the number of vacant buildings that have resulted, Stockton has become a "mini Detroit".

      Still, the comments of the Chief do not make him any more "popular" with his firefighters after this fire than when first arrived and started making his "imprint" on the SFD.










  • Seen this Before

    What possible benefit could be realized by this Chief taking to TV to show how safe he is? When I first saw it, I thought good for him being concerned, how-ever 99% of the public does not care or understand Firefighter Safety & Tactics ( listen to the talking heads gloss over the guys on the roof). Handle it in house, always have your crew's backs in public & as a Chief, don't use your people as stepping stones to greater "glory"


  • Back stepper

    What a clown. Next think you know this guy will be presenting at FDIC or some convention. Keep any problems in house. Especially when it comes to operational level situations. I for one loved the aggressiveness. He is prob the one who ordered the stupid air horns. Act accordingly and professionally. Not like this goofball and stay away from the media. Thy aren't our friends. They will turn on us in a heart beat. Anything for a story. 

  • Former Chief

    First, I think it would have been wise for the Chief to get a briefing from his troops at the scene before commenting on the news video.  It appears he did not do that or he would/should have understood their actions based on a report of children trapped.  Remember, we always say "risk a lot to save a lot".  It's good to have the additional info form LaidoffJake and Bill L. as well as uk's 2cents being from the area.  Sure, there were some safety related items that need to be addressed on a personal level, but as others here have noted, that should be done when the fire is critiqued and not by the Chief in the media.  From my perspective, Stockton looks like a great, aggressive department on the fireground.  And anyone who has been doing this long enough knows the "pucker factor" goes up substantially when you have the "people trapped" report, especially if it's kids.  I hope the Chief doesn't go too far in quelling Stockton's aggresive demeanor at fires.  This Chief's name is very familiar but I can't remember from where.  Does anyone know what East Coast FD he came from?

    As far as the UL/NIST testing, I don't know all the intricacies of it, but I have to agree with other posts that cover the coordination of ventilation and water application.  This is something we've discussed and trained on for my 38 years in the fire service.  Even the application of water to cool the environment prior to interior ops and ventilation.  The difference in my mind is the fire load in buildings and lightweight construction issues.  Many years ago, high pressure fog was a technique utilized to create steam in a room and contents fire to help "smother" the fire.  We had a John Bean attack pumper that we used effectively.  Times change, and we should always strive to learn, adapt, and do things better, but sometimes our best teacher, is our history.

  • Pat

    ~~I understand and appreciate the feedback of the story background on how there were reports of possible trapped parties in the building, however, that building was self-venting and the chance of survival in those conditions are slim to none. So I do question the reason those FFs were on the roof trying to put vent hole in when the fire was blowing out at least 3 sides from what I can see from video. Do we remember what happen to 6 heroes who lost their lives looking for reported people trapped in a vacant building?  I do not see how a vent hole would really help in this situation and is not worth the risk. Just my two cents.

    • Foo – Captain Stockton FD

      Pat you obviously have never walked this building. You probably dont know the building lay out, or how to get to the second story. 

      I venture to guess you havent seen the full video or know how to read smoke. You fill in the blanks betwen fire video segments. You would feel embarrassed about your comments, if you saw the whole video, knew the structure and all the facts.

      Oh yeah genious for your information, the news cameras werent set up prior to the Fire Departments arrival. Im sure you imagined up alot of the actions that my Fire Department did prior to the video you watched. Please share.

      • CAN take criticism

        Aww, someone can't take constructive criticisim? Isn't that just cute.


        HEAVY fire was blowing out all around the 2 guys that were up on the roof.  Seeing you were there, please tell me why they thought it was safe and tenible for any life inside?  Obviously and thankfully 1 of your brothers, the BC, was smart enough to know those 2 members needed to "GET OFF THE ROOF!!"

        • Foo – Captain Stockton FD

          I wasn't there son. Not my shift. Another assumption you are making. Quit acting like a fool. 

          How long does it take for a news camera to respond and get situated to film? Does Mr.flame grow in size or wait till the cameras ready?

          Did that vent hole at the peak just appear?

          Did the fire self vent or did a chainsaw open up the A side? 

          I wonder if you even saw the two hose lines in place going through a B side door.

          Doesnt matter. I'm done here. Make up a story and pat yourself on the back.

    • Daren

      I wasn't there, but from what i understand is that when they got on the roof to cut a hole cause there were guys inside, there was not fire blowing out of the windows.  obviously conditions changed and they were ordered off the roof.  

  • livindadream

    Seen this before and all others, the Chief was not cornered by the media or caught off guard. He sought out the media to view the video and offered an immediate interview. There was no time to measure his response or consult his fire ground leaders. So, basically, he did what all of you are doing. Looking at 3 minutes of video, void of any facts, no knowledge of what led up to the series of events he witnessed and then spewing a statement based on ignorance. The only problem with his comments is there are taken as fact because he is the Fire Chief. He rarely if ever praises his troops, he's quick to do so of his old department regularly on twitter, and publicly condemns his current department.  He is an opportunist that will, no doubt use this as a platform to elevate himself in his precious CPSE and the IAFC. As a side note, he has already used an IAFC Conference to condemn the Stockton Fire Department, so the use of the media should come to no surprise to anyone on the SFD. If this is what makes a leader in today's fire service then the hard work of thousands will be crushed by selfish, narcissistic, ne'er do wells that call themselves "Contemporary"


  • cbj

    I ask this "volunteer for life" nut to let us know what he/she does for a living, as in what's your real job? Or are you unemployed so you can hang out in the fire house? A true jackass that is not a brother in any sense of the word.  Playing fireman for life. Alluding to PG County and the famed (?) 33, how does this nut work alongside the "paid" firefighters that belong to this company? My guess is the nut stays quite while following behind them and the rest of the TRUE firefighters…career and volunteer

  • slackjawedyokel

    "chief"  sounds like a grandstander and a attention whore. -

  • roofhook22

    Hats off to stockton, those fella's get after it.  As for the roof, great work.  As for the negative comments about the roof, if you study LODD's you will find very few have happened while working the roof, more firefighters have been shot in the last 15-20 years then have been killed on roofs.

  • Stay_Safe

    Last Responders….classic!!!