Chief refrains from punishing firefighter

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Thursday that while shehas not sought to punish a firefighter who was injured in an on-duty brawl that was not immediately reported, she may yet do so.

On Thursday, the San Francisco Fire Commission publicly received disciplinary charges against firefighter Bela Carreira and retired firefighter Tom Masterson for their role in a May 20 fight in a station house.

Firefighter Joel Soto suffered fractures, lacerations and contusions to his face and head when Carreira allegedly hit him numerous times while the two were on duty at Station 32 in Bernal Heights. The incident was initially reported as a fall.

After the department brass learned of the beating nearly a month later, an investigation took place. Hayes-White recommended that Carreira, a five-year veteran, lose his job for allegedly hitting Soto and for his part in the subsequent failure to report the incident. She also recommended that then-acting Lt. Masterson be suspended for 90 days for allegedly failing to report the incident. Masterson has since retired.

Hayes-White also sent letters calling for lesser disciplinary action against three department members who were in the station the night of the alleged fight and did not come forward.

So far, Hayes-White has not called for any discipline for Soto. The first-year firefighter, who is on probationary status, also did not report the incident.

On Thursday, Hayes-White said, “I’m not saying the case is necessarily closed. I have not filed anything. I’m not saying he may not be disciplined.”

Sources within the department said investigators are still evaluating Soto’s mental state following the altercation. They are trying to determine whether intimidation or any change in Soto’s state of mind might have been a factor.

In a previous interview, Hayes-White said Soto was initially on disability, but that has since changed to workers’ compensation. As of the beginning of this week,he was on nonwork status.

A workers’ compensation claim was filed in relation to an incident on May 20 and was signed by Masterson. The name of the claimant, however, is not revealed in the public record.

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