San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White speaks to students as they take part in the Great California Shakeout at Bryant Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF Fire Chief Hayes-White announces retirement

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White announced her retirement in a department-wide email Monday.

The email, which was sent to the San Francisco Examiner by fire department sources, confirmed the chief will step down “in the spring.” The fire department confirmed the email is authentic.

“To all members,” she wrote, “As I reflect on my career with the San Francisco Fire Department, it is with excitement and a sense of pride that I inform you of my intent to retire in the Spring. It has been an honor and privilege to serve the San Francisco Fire Department Since 1990.”

Hayes-White also wrote she met with Mayor London Breed last month to tell her she planned to retire.

“Over the next few months, I am committed to continuing to work diligently and focus on department priorities,” Hayes-White wrote, including welcoming a new fire recruit class and breaking ground on a new ambulance deployment facility.

Breed issued a statement Monday thanking Hayes-White for her service.

“During her nearly fifteen years as Chief, I worked with her as a Fire Commissioner, as a member of the Board of Supervisors, and now as Mayor to strengthen and improve the Department,” she said. “I also want to thank her for working collaboratively to ensure that we have stability as we work to select a new Fire Chief. While we identify and select a new Chief, Chief Hayes-White can continue to focus on what matters most to all of us – keeping our residents and visitors safe.”

Hayes-White, a San Francisco native, has served with the fire department since 1990, but not without controversy.

San Francisco Firefighters Local 798, the firefighters’ union, has long called for Hayes-White’s ouster. As far back as 2014, the union blasted her for not running enough ambulances to serve The City, among other issues. Breed also took Hayes-White to task during Breed’s tenure on the Board of Supervisors.

It has been rumored since Breed took over the Mayor’s Office that Hayes-White would step down and run for office as a supervisor in District 7, where Hayes-White is said to be politically popular.

Hayes-White was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs in August. In announcing the award, the association cited her career accomplishments including instituting random on-duty drug and alcohol testing, reconfiguring emergency medical services and restoring promotional exams, as well as an increase in diversity in the department.

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