The San Francisco Fire Department has once again found itself in the national spotlight as word surfaced in recent days that an allegedly drunk on-duty firefighter ran over motorcyclist Jack Frazier and then left the scene of the accident. The incident occurred on the evening June 29th when 20-year SFFD veteran Michael Quinn collided with the rider near the intersection of Howard and 5th and the collision was caught on video which can be viewed at this link.
Motorcyclist Jack Frazier 49, of Daly City suffered a collapsed lung, neck and back injuries, and fractured ribs and other broken bones when he was hurled into a fire hydrant. He was hospitalized for more than a month at a cost of more than $461,000, according to the claim his lawyer, Jim Romag of Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, filed with the city.
Quinn, 44, stopped the ladder truck after the collision and was informed by his captain that he would have to undergo a drug and alcohol test. The firefighter immediately left the scene and walked to a nearby bar where security cameras captured him consuming several pitchers of water. It would be almost two hours later before Quinn returned to Fire Station 1 where he was tested and had a blood alcohol count of 0.13 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 and substantially higher than the departments zero tolerance level.
The firefighter was arrested on the charges of suspicion of felony drunken driving and hit-and-run.
Police have been attempting to piece together what Quinn did during the time frame between the collision and his return to the station; their report is expected to be given to the district attorney on Tuesday, October 22nd.
According to news sources, Chief Joanne Hayes-White issued a letter to the Fire Commission on October 17th asking that Quinn be fired; the firefighter is currently in rehab at an undisclosed location outside of the city. The attorney representing Quinn is James Bustamante who called the request for termination “premature and irresponsible” given that the investigation is still ongoing.
The San Francisco Fire Department has a long history of certain firefighters drinking on the job for much of its 137-year history. “The firefighters who drink on the job are much more confrontation and undisciplined,” wrote firefighter Kristen Odlaug in a harassment claim she filed against the city.
“Our job is dangerous enough without having somebody impaired at the wheel or giving you orders as a boss,” said Odlaug in an interview. Fire Chief Mario Trevino took Odlaug’s allegations seriously enough to call in the city attorney’s office to investigate.
Jon Hanley is president of San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 and discredit’s Odlaug’s statement by saying, “If there was drinking going on in the firehouses, I would know about it, guaranteed.”
However, others have come out to say that Odlaug’s claim was not meritless.
Michael Creedon is currently an auditor at department headquarters and is the former president of the Firefighter Paramedic Association and says, “I have seen a lot of drinking going on in the firehouses – it’s still going on today. One of the reasons I’m behind the desk is I don’t want to put my life at risk on a rib by a person who is drinking and driving.”