Chief shares details about Calif. firefighters' strip club scandal

San Jose Chief Robert Sapien said Engine 4’s fire truck went to the Pink Poodle to drop off a male passenger, then encountered the dancer seen in the 2022 video


By Gabriel Greschler
Bay Area News Group

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a bid to quell a deluge of questions swirling around the scandalous video showing a dancer at a San Jose strip club seen exiting an on-duty firetruck in October, Fire Chief Robert Sapien Tuesday offered a few more details about the tawdry episode.

In a memo released to the city council, Sapien said Engine 4’s firetruck traveled to the Pink Poodle on Oct. 5 to drop off a male passenger who was not authorized to be traveling with the crew. Upon their arrival at the strip club, one of the dancers entered the truck, asking for a ride-along.

The Pink Poodle is San Jose’s only “all-nude” strip club. A video shows a dancer getting out of a fire truck.
The Pink Poodle is San Jose’s only “all-nude” strip club. A video shows a dancer getting out of a fire truck. (Photo/Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service)

Sapien said that the fire crew initially refused the request, but eventually relented because the dancer “persisted.” For approximately four minutes, the fire truck drove around the club and dropped the scantily-clad dancer off at 9:10 p.m., a moment that was captured on video and shared widely on social media.

The fire truck then traveled near AJ’s Bar — a bikini bar on Lincoln Avenue located two miles away from the Pink Poodle, Sapien said. The truck remained at that spot for a couple of minutes before returning to its fire station at 9:20 p.m.

The chief also shared that the disciplinary process has been completed — and that those involved in the episode did not challenge the punishment in an appeal.

“The use of a City vehicle to transport unauthorized passengers violated City and Fire Department policies, including the City’s Code of Ethics and Use of City and Personal Vehicles policies as well as the Fire Department’s Ride-Along Program,” the chief wrote. “Additionally, taking the fire engine outside of the area to which it is assigned without being dispatched to a call for service violated City and Department policies, including the Fire Department’s Policies and Procedures for Leaving First-In Response Area.”

In an interview, Sapien declined to offer any more details outside of what was outlined in the Tuesday memo, which is the second one he has shared with the council since the Oct. 5 video came out. In March, the chief apologized to the public for the first time about the eye-raising incident.

“I think the combination of this memo and the previous one (in March) is pretty much the extent of what I can share,” he said.

The Pink Poodle on 328 South Bascom Ave. is San Jose’s only “all-nude” strip club and was established in 1963. Video of the firetruck incident was first shared on the Instagram account San Jose Foos with the caption, “Only in San Jose do you see a stripper come out of a firetruck.”

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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