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Joanne Hayes White

First Women San Francisco Fire Department Chief

Joanne M. Hayes-White is San Francisco’s First Female Fire Chief. A 14-year veteran at the age of 39, she was sworn in on January 16, 2004 to become the 25th Fire Chief for the City and County of San Francisco. Appointed by San Francisco’s Mayor Gavin Newsome, who praised her and also played down the significance of her gender, saying he selected the best candidate for the job. Chief Hayes-White is one of the longest-tenured chiefs in the department’s history.

Chief Hayes-White is an inspiring leader, a role model and a devoted mother to three handsome young men: Sean (15), Logan (18) and Riley (21). She is a San Francisco native and earned her business degree from the University of Santa Clara, prior to being hired in April 1990 as a Firefighter for the City of San Francisco. She was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1993, to Captain, then Battalion Chief in 1996, with oversight of the department’s dispatch and communications systems. Chief Hayes-White oversaw the installation of the computer-aided system (CAD) and automated information systems streamlining and improving the department’s dispatch and records management capabilities.

Also accomplished during her tenure as the Battalion Chief for dispatch and communications, she spearheaded the unification of City dispatch operations into the single emergency communications department, a process that combined Fire, EMS, and police dispatch communications under one roof, improving response times and service to the community, as well as strengthening interagency cooperation and collaboration. By 1998 Chief Hayes-White was promoted to Assistant Deputy Chief responsible for division of support services: the bureau of communications, bureau of equipment, bureau of engineering and water supply, management information systems, and all facility repairs, maintenance, and renovations. Chief Hayes-White was then promoted to the Director of Training for the Fire Department, where she supervised recruit training, in-service training, continuing education, and firefighter-paramedic cross training. She developed the Battalion-Based In-Service Training Program, a process that tripled the number of formal training hours for all members of the department, with no fiscal or financial impact on the City. Chief Hayes-White is proud that during her career, she has worked in every one of San Francisco’s forty-two fire stations and knows most of the department members by name. During all the cutbacks over the past 5+ years, no firefighters have had to be laid off. As well as the implementation of a Random On-Duty Alcohol and Drug Testing Policy and the reconfiguration of Emergency Medical Services which have increased accountability and led to greater operational efficiency. The Fire Department’s community involvement has noticeably increased during her tenure through the expansion of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Program, creation of San Francisco Firefighters in Safety Education (SFFISE), and the Asthma Outreach Programs.