It’s gettin’ mighty hot in the San Francisco Fire Department, and I’m not talkin’ actual fires.
A field of dozens of candidates for the next fire chief has been narrowed to just three, multiple sources confirmed to me this week.
One of those candidates is from the Stockton Fire Department, I’m told, but two are local: Deputy Chief of Administration Jeanine Nicholson and Battalion Chief Michael Thompson.
Seeing as how rank and file firefighters have been clamoring for a new chief to be one of their own, it seems unlikely (though let’s never say never) that Mayor London Breed would ultimately pick the Stockton candidate.
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White announced her retirement last October. A favorite among Irish San Franciscans and long-time West Side dwellers, Hayes-White boasts one of the longer tenures among local chiefs in the last century — 15 years.
The last chief to serve that long was William F. Murray, who served from 1956 to 1971, according to local fire department history group Guardians of The City.
At least officially, the Fire Commission finished its own interviews and ultimately forwarded just five candidates to Breed for interviewing as of Valentine’s Day last month.
Nicholson and Thompson both sport long careers in the fire department: each for roughly 25 years.
As chief of Battalion Ten, Thompson is responsible for overseeing fire suppression in San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods, including Bay View, South Potrero Hill and the Mission, overseeing six fire stations and a station housing the fire department’s ambulance staff, according to his LinkedIn page.
He was also spotted by some of my sources at Breed’s inauguration-day party, a private soiree with a selective list of whos-whos from around The City.
Besides Nicholson’s own fire credentials, she’s also fought for the rights of firefighters battling cancer, a frightening and all-too-real risk for those who battle blazes.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, but after reportedly undergoing chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she beat her diagnosis back. Nicholson is a survivor.
Nicholson is also viewed internally as the favorite of outgoing chief Hayes-White, who has frequently warred with the fire union.
Breed is certainly an independent actor, but the fire union has so heavily backed her over the years — often forming independent expenditure campaign committees to finance attack ads on her opponents — I can’t imagine the union’s preference would have no bearing on her decision.
I couldn’t reach San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 President Shon Buford for comment.
But sources say Breed may announce her ultimate decision as early as this coming week.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.