Oakland Fire Marshal abruptly resigns amidst slew of problems

Oakland Fire Chief Darin White announced that he is searching for a new leader to the Fire Prevention Bureau after Miguel Trujillo resigned


By Matthias Gafni and David DeBolt
East Bay Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — In an abrupt change to an embattled fire department inspections bureau, Oakland Fire Marshal Miguel Trujillo resigned Friday.

Trujillo is leaving to become the fire marshal for the Gilroy Fire Department, city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said.

Oakland Fire Chief Darin White announced that he is searching for a new leader to the Fire Prevention Bureau:

“The Fire Marshal is a critical component of my executive team,” White said in a statement. “I am excited to launch a recruitment effort that will enable me to accelerate and realize my stated goal of reorganizing the Fire Prevention Bureau to focus on strong leadership and oversight, strategic planning, division restructure, improved accountability, efficient processes, subject matter expertise, and professional acumen — all of which are required to meet evolving fire prevention needs and public education and outreach requirements — for our unique Oakland community.”

In the interim, Chief White will assume the duties of the fire marshal. The city said interviews with interim candidates are already underway.

Oakland’s inspection bureau under Trujillo suffered one problem after another. Asked in November if he had confidence in Trujillo, Chief White did not directly address the question about the fire marshal and instead offered a general response, saying had confidence in every member of the department.

After last year’s deadly fire at a West Oakland halfway house, internal emails showed that firefighter warnings of serious life safety dangers never led to an inspection over the years until only three days before the blaze. A subsequent investigation by this newspaper found that 80 percent of the referrals made by firefighters to the Fire Prevention Bureau of dangerous conditions in buildings never got inspections.

Trujillo’s department also never inspected the Ghost Ship warehouse, where 36 people died in a fire on Dec. 2, 2016. The Fruitvale district warehouse was not on the city’s inspection rolls, despite firefighters having visited the building several times before the deadly blaze.

At a criminal hearing in December, fire Lt. George Freelen testified that after he visited the building in 2014, he sent a report to the fire prevention bureau detailing dangers he saw inside. Trujillo later said could find no record of the document.

White plans to continue with the immediate goals of hiring six additional inspectors for the next fiscal year, streamlining the fire plan check and permit process, migrating the bureau to the Accela software, and overseeing next fire season’s vegetation management programs in the hills.

Trujillo was hired by former fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, who retired last year in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire.

Copyright 2018 East Bay Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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