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San Francisco Fire Department Chief Joanne Hayes-White tells Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross that worn tires and a possible fishing trip are both “definitely under investigation” as reasons Engine 9 failed to post as part of a strike team on the deadly Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa October 9. The firefighters at that station are among those trained and prepared to respond to wildfires around the state when requested.
Chief Hayes-White confirmed for Matier and Ross that a captain cited tread on the rig’s tires as the reason his company would not be joining four other engines as part of a strike team for the hour trip to the fire. They were replaced by a Berkeley engine. The Berkeley engine assigned to that strike team made headlines around the world with the viral video of the fire posted by one of its firefighters.
The next day, inspectors examined the truck’s tires and found some wear and tear. “Three of them were replaced as a precaution,” Hayes-White said.
What’s not clear is why a truck whose tires were unsafe to roll to a fire had been left in operation. The trucks are required to be checked daily. Crews are also required to fill out daily inspection reports that should have signaled the tire problem.
In an added twist, the rumor circulating around the department is that the captain — who was both assigned to the engine and overseeing the station at the time — was planning a big fishing trip the morning of the fires. He reportedly had even made arrangements to be relieved early from his shift at about 6:30 a.m. — just two hours after the emergency call came in.
A Fire Department source tells us the captain’s boat was seen that morning hooked up to a pickup truck behind the firehouse.