SFFD: Firefighters in alleged brawl are on paid leave

Neither of the firefighters who allegedly fought while on duty in a station house are currently working, but both are still being paid by the San Francisco Fire Department.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Tuesday that the two men, identified by sources within the department as Joel Soto and Bela Carreira, are not working, but that she “did not actively modify any of their roles.”

The lieutenant in charge of the station when the fight happened is still at work, Hayes-White said.

A May 20 altercation between Soto and Carreira in Station 32 in Bernal Heights allegedly turned violent, leaving Soto unconscious with a gash on his face and a broken jaw and nose, according to multiple sources within the department.

The station’s management allegedly failed to report the fight to department administration, initially claiming that the injuries had resulted from a fall, sources said. Hayes-White said Tuesday that her office had only learned of the alleged incident on June 15.

The City has a provision in its charter that allows the head of a department to suspend without pay workers who are being investigated on a disciplinary matter, The City’s Department of Human Resources head Phil Ginsburg said Wednesday.

When a series of controversial videos made by members of the Police Department came to light in December 2005, Chief Heather Fong initially suspended 24 officers while an investigation commenced.

Hayes-White said Wednesday that it is not Fire Department policy to immediately suspend employees who are the subject of an investigation. “I don’t want to act prematurely,” she said.

Upon completion of the investigation, Hayes-White said, the department will evaluate whether the time off was appropriate, and may decide to seek advice from the City Attorney’s office.

On Tuesday, Hayes-White said, “I don’t believe they’re not at work because of the investigation. There are other reasons not to be in work.” Those reasons, she said, mayinclude medical leave.

Mayor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday refused to comment on the matter, saying only that he had met with the chief and that he was aware of the alleged fight and delay. “I won’t conclude any cover-up,” he said.

Hayes-White said an investigation into the matter has been fast-tracked. “The allegations are, in my mind, fairly significant, very serious and that’s why we’re trying to move this thing along,” she said Tuesday.

amartin@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

Calfire (Shutterstock)
Wildfires burn around Northern California during first red flag weekend of the year

Firefighters around the region battled wildfires all day Saturday, starting less than… Continue reading

The Port of San Francisco, which controls much of the The City’s waterfront, faces potential layoffs due to a financial crisis caused by the pandemic. 
Steven Ho/
Special to S.F. Examiner
In a financial ‘crisis,’ SF Port officials lobby for stimulus funding

Looking to right their financial ship, Port of San Francisco officials are… Continue reading

Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting has expanded the range of people who can request a gun violence restraining order against someone. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Use of gun violence restraining orders continues to rise

For the fourth year in a row, the number of gun violence… Continue reading

Most Read