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Chief Engineers - Chiefs of Department:

Robert L. Demmons Chief of Department
1996 - 2000

Robert L. Demmons

Mayor Willie L. Brown swore in Chief Robert L. Demmons as the eighteenth Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department on January 17, 1996. He joined the San Francisco Fire Department in 1974 and successfully promoted through the ranks.

During his career, he served in fire suppression throughout the City and worked in each of the Department’s 41 fire stations. He successfully promoted through the ranks of the Department starting in 1978. Chief Demmons exhibited a dedication to seeing that the San Francisco Fire Department is an institution that reflects the diversity of the City and serves all the communities in San Francisco. Upon his retirement, Demmons stated, “It is my hope that all of the men and women of this department will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the San Francisco Fire Department remains an example of diversity and equal opportunity.”

Under Chief Demmons, the San Francisco Fire Department experienced a tremendous amount of growth and change. Some of the accomplishments of the department include exiting the court ordered Consent Decree, the merger with the Department of Public Health’s ambulance division, and the acquisition of the military firefighting training facility at Treasure Island.



  • Termination of Consent Decree Monitoring - on November 26, 1997, Judge Marilyn Patel signed a Stipulated Order ending the day-to-day monitoring of the Consent Decree that had been in effect since June 1988. The Stipulated Order acknowledged the significant shift in representation by minorities and women in the SFFD. The current representation in the SFFD is over 40% minority and over 10% women. These members arc represented throughout the ranks of the Department. The original goals, set forth in the Consent Decree, for representation in the Department were 40% for minorities and 10% for women and were expected to be reached in the year 2005. One of the goals of the Stipulated Order was to have 38% minority and 9% women representation by November of 1998, and that was clearly achieved.

  • Termination of the court-ordered Consent Decree - In January of 1999, the San Francisco Fire Department emerged from all court supervision with the termination of its court-ordered consent decree. The ending of the decree demonstrated the Department's ability to manage its self with respect to equal opportunity and fair treatment for its members. The original plaintiffs involved in the Consent Decree expressed their confidence in the administration to run the Department.

  • Historic Appointments - Chief Demmons made historic appointments of the first African-American Fire Marshal and the first woman as a chief officer. Her appointment also marked the first time a Hispanic has held the position of Assistant Deputy Chief II. Other appointments noted over the last four years include:
    • The highest-ranking Asian officer in the Department
    • Two African-American women as chief officers - one in the area of Management Services, one in the EMS Division. These are firsts for the Department also.
    • The creation of the Department's Human Resources Division in 1999 saw the installation of the first Asian woman with the equivalence of a chief officer in the civilian ranks.

  • EEO/Diversity - The Department had a number of hires and appointments over the Last four years. The growth of the Department is only matched by its improvement in the area of diversity. The San Francisco Fire Department is now over 40% minority and over 10% women [sec attached statistical data]. The Department also had the following accomplishments in this area:
    • Developed and conducted Diversity training for the entire Department and ongoing for all new uniformed members.
    • Incorporated debriefing of individuals and their work sites as appropriate, following completion of EEO investigations/case closure.
    • Provided a means of closure for involved parties and ability to discuss/explain outcomes, remedies and procedures.
    • Revised training materials for Review Committee Members and Investigators.
    • Conducted climate survey & evaluation of EEO policies in order to gauge perceptions about EE0 process and refine training material.

  • Strategic Plan - The San Francisco Fire Department developed the first SFFD Strategic Plan through the Department's management retreats held at the Department's Presidio and Treasure Island sites. The Strategic Plan provided the Department with clear goals and objectives in areas such as training, communication, and management. The management retreats were held in 1996 and 2000. They were organized as a way to identify problems and issues within the Department along with possible solutions. The retreats sought to involve members of administration, employee organizations, and the rank and file in developing the direction in which the Department was to proceed.

  • Acquisition of Treasure Island Training Center - On December 19, 1997, the City and County of Sari Francisco entered into a lease agreement with the United  States of America, which allowed the SFFD to utilize the state-of-the-art Navy Firefighting Training Center located on Treasure Island. This acquisition has given the SFFD the ability to become a regional fire-fighting training center capable of training structural, marine and aircraft rescue firefighters, utilizing computer generated live-fire training scenarios. Several training classes, given to other agencies, utilizing the live-fire marine and flight deck capabilities has already met its revenue-generating potential.

  • 911 - The San Francisco Fire Department spearheaded the City's transition to a new 911 Center. The Department combined EMS and Fire Suppression dispatching personnel participated in training for the new 911 center. in April of 2000, the Department began utilizing the new 911 Center for all dispatching operations. Other accomplishments associated with the 911 project include:
    • Developed the overall training for the new 911 System, including use of the new 800 MHz-trunked Radio System.
    • Developed a procedural manual for fire stations to use in completing fire and non-fire incident reports on station computers in relation to the 911 Project
    • Merged the SFFD Communications Center (CCOI) with DPH Communication Center (CMED), including cross-training of DPH and SFFD dispatchers. All members involved exhibited an extremely high degree of cooperation.
    • Provided an SFFD Liaison Officer to the 911 project regarding the Fire Department and the new 911 System.
    • Developed a status board at the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) to be used for command and control and SFFD resource management.
    • Developed an operations manual and procedures to be used by SFFD personnel while assigned to the new CECC.
    • Installed new computers and software in most offices and firehouses in preparation for the new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and radio system.
    • Established information system protocols and connections for IJHR, Communications/Dispatch Center, Headquarters information systems already on line. Department's CAD, 911, MDT, and AWSS remote systems. All systems were installed and integrated.

  • Budget - The Department has made several changes in regards to budget and staffing.
    • Changed the budget development process to include chief officers and their staff.
    • Installed a Chief Financial Officer to supervise the financial planning and budgeting of the Department.
    • Also developed staffing and overtime procedures for the Department.
    • Created and implemented new SFFD Airport Division Overtime Policy to facilitate better overtime documentation for the San Francisco International Airport (SFIA) and SFFD.

  • Polices/Procedures - Categorized policies, determined the appropriateness of policies and conflict with other policies (policy consolidation/elimination), and developed a standard format through the Policies and Procedures Workgroup. The Department also completed a 30-page report on the Policies and Procedures concerning the Bureau of Assignments, including qualifications, certifications, and specific requirements for specialized fire suppression positions within the Department. Other policies and procedures introduced include:
    • Development of a policy for fulfilling temporary officers assignments. Reviewed officers' qualifications when assigning vacation relief positions in HazMat, Surf Rescue, Cliff Rescue, etc.
    • Developed a policy for staffing discretionary positions
    • Compiled statistical information from suppression units outlining vacation, sick and disability leave usage to identify possible trends through the Staffing Workgroup.


  • Division of Training - Training is a vital area within the San Francisco Fire Department. Increasing and improving our overall training was enhanced with the acquisition of the firefighting school at Treasure Island. Here arc some of the training accomplishments of the Department over the last four years.
    • We have trained and graduated hundreds of new members into the SFFD, continuing the promise of having a department that reflects the diversity of the City.
    • Developed and published a monthly Training Calendar that includes all department operational, management, and medical training. The calendar is published on a monthly basis.
    • Increased in-service training and evaluation. Beginning in May of 1999, we have conducted in-service training evolutions designed to measure fire company coordination and efficiency and identify training needs. The in-service trainers from the Division of Training (DOT) have developed an effective, workable system to address training needs and provide a path to successful performance. The success of the training program can be attributed to the efforts of department members supplying the program with valuable experience and knowledge.
    • Developed an SFFD New Officer Training Program - a three-week training program is provided to new company officers to provide a comprehensive training program in four major areas: technical, conceptual, human skills, and diagnostic skills.
    • Expanded Incident Command System (ICS) training for department officers - this training has expanded to all officer ranks through MMS1, ICS Tracking boards in Chief's vehicles, and participation in tabletop drills.
    • Revised and updated 15 department training manuals.
    • Produced over 30 video presentations as training films for in-service training by Video and Technical Services.
    • Maintained and improved our response to all DART and MUNI incidents within trackways and respective stations through the SFFD Transit Committee.
    • Developed a multi-jurisdictional BART firefighting plan. This plan will be implemented when BART serves San Mateo County and the San Francisco International Airport (SFIA).

  • Youth Program - the Department is developing a youth program to work with community programs to introduce the career of firefighting and emergency services to high school students in the City. We arc currently working with the Delancey Street Organization on a program in conjunction the school they are developing.

  • Treasure Island Training - Initiated live-fire training at Treasure Island training facility. All members participate in live, hands-on firefighting training involving fire simulators located at the SFFD Treasure Island Firefighting Training Facility.

  • Managing Problem Performance (MPP) - Developed the MPP training for officers. MPP is a collaborative effort between the SFFD and the Department of Human Resources (DHR). The program is designed to assist Fire Department managers in selecting the appropriate steps to follow in taking corrective and/or disciplinary action at their level.

  • EMS - The merger of the San Francisco Fire Department with the ambulance service of DPH introduced many challenges in the Fire Department’s training landscape. Here are some of the achievements in the area of EMS training:
    • Developed paramedic training for firefighters.
    • Certified the SFFD EMS Academy as an American Heart Association Training Center offering qualified programs in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Basic Life Support, and Pediatric Advanced Live Support.
    • Developed curriculum and conducted initial Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training program for hundreds of new firefighter recruits.
    • Developed new paramedic training curriculum based on National Registry requirements and conducted three paramedic training programs for SFFD firefighters and students from outside agencies.
    • Developed curriculum and provided well over 100,000 hours of Basic Life Support (BLS first responder) and defibrillation training to over 1600 paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters.
    • Developed and provided EMS education programs for community groups and professional emergency workers.
    • Developed curriculum for BLS ambulance tier-training for firefighters.
    • Developed new pen-based Patient Care Report.
    • Reduced EMS workload issues, reduced response times, and improved capability of trained FF/EMTs through deployment of the BLS Ambulance Tier.
    • Developed improved accountability and performance of field EMS personnel through deployment and training of Rescue Captains (RCs).
    • Developed new training methods, particularly in the use of real life scenario-based training and use of multi-media presentations.
    • Conducted the following research programs:
      • Cardiac Arrest and Early Defibrillation study;
      • Pre-hospital Treatment of Status Epilepticus (PHTSE) - 5 year study;
      • Head Trauma study (Triple H);
      • Field Assessment of Stroke Treatment by Expert Paramedics (FASTEP);
      • Cardiac Pacing study;
      • Pediatric Arrest study;
      • Advanced Airway Project
      • BLS Pilot Program:

    • Developed curriculum and prowled comprehensive, on-going EMS instructor training programs.
    • Developed curriculum and provided advanced and innovative paramedic continuing education program.
    • Provided all training necessary for DPH and SFFD personnel to understand new policies, procedures, and responsibilities created by the EMS merger.
    • Conducted EMS education for intra-agency operations in Disaster, Automatic Defibrillation, and Terrorism Casualty Management, including scheduling training and coordinating drills for the program.


  • Public Information/Community Affairs Offices - The Department established two new offices to handle the responsibilities associated with two important areas to the Department. The Community Affairs office has coordinated the Department's participation in over hundreds of community events and appearances including health fairs, fire safety fairs, , fire exit, and fire extinguishing training throughout the City.. The Public Information Office functioned to provide accurate information about SFFD activities and programs to the public through the media.. The office also responded to major emergency incidents involving the lives, homes, and property of our citizens.

  • SFFD Open House - Established Fire Station Open House days. Open House Days give citizens the opportunity to visit their local fire station to interact with firefighters on a non-emergency basis. Citizens and members of the public have the chance to observe drills, participate in activities, and receive valuable fire safety information. The Open House program averages approximately 500 visitors to department fire stations throughout the City.

  • Community-Based Programs - The San Francisco Fire Department is committed to becoming a part of the fabric of each neighborhood it serves. The Department was pleased to participate in the following programs as a way to increase our community involvement:
    • Since October 1997, our Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) Program has trained over one thousand people from various neighborhoods, government agencies, and private corporations in basic disaster skills that help them be self-sufficient for a period of 72 hours following a major disaster. The first 72 hours arc the most crucial. The program has trained more than 8,300 San Franciscans since its inception in 1990.
    • The Department’s FLAME youth program has provided quality basketball and baseball programs to over 6,000 boys and girls from the ages of 6 through 19.
    • San Francisco Fire Department Youth Fishing Program - A community outreach program targeting disadvantaged youth, allowing them to participate in a learning activity and develop a relationship with firefighters volunteering their time, Children from different communities are taken on fishing trips with firefighters on the San Francisco Bay.
    • Participated in both of the Mayor's “Great Sweep” events - firehouses served as the coordinating points for neighborhood participants. Funding for the program was secured with the Wells Fargo Foundation through the year 2000.
    • Neighborhood Blood Pressure Screening - Each neighborhood fire station conducts blood pressure screening during the week. Citizens may come in to the fire station to have their blood pressure read by on-duty personnel; increasing the opportunity for interaction between fire personnel and the communities they serve.


  • H-2 Cadet Program - Developed and implemented the SFFD Cadet Program - The Cadet Program is a pilot hiring program that increases the volume of evaluation given to candidates prior to entering the Fire Department. The Department initiated the process, replacing the former one-day exam, in order to provide individuals with the opportunity to participate in a job-related training program as a means for selection into the Fire Department. The program was designed to facilitate an exchange of critical information between the candidate and the Department and to identify highly motivated individuals as candidates for the fire service. The first group was selected and entered into the program in March 2000.

  • Officer Candidate Program - The Department began developing the Officer Candidate Program as a promotional system that will define specific training to prepare members for the responsibilities in the various ranks of the SFFD. Both the Cadet Program and Officer Candidate Program are critical for the fulfillment of the Stipulated Order that ended the Consent Decree. The San Francisco Fire Department conducted promotional examinations for the ranks of Lieutenant and Battalion Chief during the last four years. With the implementation of the Cadet and Officer Candidate Programs, the Department expects to have a process in place that will provide an equal opportunity for employment and advancement for all. In the area of hiring and promotions, the Department also accomplished the following:
    • Developed and administered an H-3 Firefighter/Paramedic Lateral Entry examination.
    • Developed and maintained hire projections for promotive ranks.
    • Developed and maintained record of entry-level and promotive hires.
    • Performed personnel functions in the areas of requisition generation and tracking, preparation of appointment and separation reports, and serving as a liaison to DHR.
    • Drafted rating guidelines for screening committee

  • Bilingual Proficiency Test - The Department implemented a bilingual proficiency test in order to identify those members with language skills in Spanish and Cantonese. Those members who passed the test will have the opportunity to bid on spots in the fire stations that arc designated as bilingual.


  • EMS merger with the Department - February 1997 saw the first ever deployment of ambulances in fire stations throughout the City. The merger of the Department of Public Health’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) Paramedic Division into the Fire Department has made it possible to increase the number of City ambulances from 13 to 16. For the first time, previously under served neighborhoods such as the Sunset, Hunter's Point, and Outer Mission now have permanently stationed ambulances in their areas. There also has been a reduction of EMS claims filed against the City from a total of 11 during 1997 down to 0 for the first eight months of 1999. The City can expect an even quicker response to medical emergencies. The merger of EMS with the Fire Department highlights the increasingly important role of responding to medical emergencies in the mission of the Fire Department.

  • Criteria Based Dispatch (CBD) - One result of the merger with the EMS Paramedic Division was an increase in the emergency medical call volume for the Department. The Department developed the Criteria-Based Dispatching System as a means to address the increase in call types and volume. The CBD provides a system of evaluating emergency calls in order to assign the most appropriate level of emergency response.

  • Metropolitan Medical Strike Team (MMST) - Mayor Willie Brown designated SFFD as the lead agency in preparing for domestic terrorism. The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) focuses on providing rapid and highly skilled medical response by the Strike Team to incidents involving nuclear-biological-chemical agents. The Department also accomplished the following in association with the MMST:
    • Developed a program for the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) for Fire Department communications, casualty management, Incident Command, and purchasing equipment.
    • Initiated monthly MMRS activation drills and monthly Medical Casualty Care drills.
    • Developed MMRS dispatch protocols.
    • Developed a training program for MMST which was taught jointly to firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.
    • Conducted a MMST Drill at Hunter's Point.
    • Participated in federal government's evaluation of the City of San Francisco’s MMRS planning and training. The City passed the evaluation.

  • Metropolitan Medical Task Force (MMTF) - The San Francisco Fire Department began planning and developing a Metropolitan Medical Task Force for managing human health consequences of terrorist incidents involving the USC of weapons of mass destruction and/or the accidental release of Nuclear- Biological-Chemical (NBC) agents. This system was implemented in conjunction with the City and County Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA) and the Department of Public Health (DPH).

  • Y2K - The San Francisco Fire Department coordinated with the Mayor's Y2K Project Management Office for all aspects of SFFD Y2K issues, including embedded systems and IT inventory and remediation. The Department conducted review and testing of all pertinent department apparatus, equipment, and systems for Y2K compliance.

  • Airport - During thc last four years, the San Francisco Fire Department has made important achievements in the Airport Division. Some of those achievements include:
    • Completed and opened Airport firehouse - the Airport’s Emergency Response Facility Three recently opened thereby increasing firefighting and emergency response capabilities at the San Francisco International Airport.
    • Brought SFFD Airport Division into compliance with OSHA regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
    • Implemented the A.R.R.E.S.T. (Airport Rapid Resuscitation Early Shock Trial) Project at the SFIA. This project allows for the rapid deployment of automatic defibrillators in boarding areas at the airport.
    • Expanded the SFFD Airport Division Fire Prevention unit by two additional Fire Inspectors due to the increased work load of the San Francisco International Airport (SFIA) Master Plan.
    • Developed the 101 Freeway response plan associated with an automatic mutual-aid plan with the San Mateo County Fire Department.
    • Assigned the design and construction project for the SFIA Water Rescue/Boat facility. This was a $3 million project. This water rescue facility will house all Airport Division rescue boats.
    • Developed a contract in order for the SFFD Airport Division to provide San Mateo County with Paramedic services. The contract covered operational, medical, and legal issues.
    • Participated in the development of the SFIA 800 MHz Radio system with members.
    • Redeveloped and formulated a SFIA community-based cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and fire safety program.

  • Red Cross - The San Francisco Fire Department reinforced its relationship with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross, through its Disaster Action Team (DAT), responds to greater alarm fires and other emergencies in the City with the Fire Department. The Department conducted meetings with staff from the Red Cross to introduce aspects of our operations such as emergency triage, incident command, and fire prevention. The DAT team was given field trips to orient them to Department areas such as Hazmat, the Communications Center, and the Fireboat.

  • Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel Program - In 1999 the San Francisco Fire Department implemented the SRO Hotel program in the City. The program was initiated after a series of residency hotel fires left many of our most disadvantaged citizens without a place to live. The program was to provide quarterly evaluations of SRO's and on-site education to the managers and residents about fire safety and prevention. Housing advocates recognized that the program had an affect on deterring fires in residency hotels and bringing hotel residents and owners together.

  • Fire Prevention - Preventing fires is a crucial part of our mission to San Francisco. Listed below are some of the accomplishments made in the area of Fire Prevention and Investigation:
    • Investigated 9th Street Fire - April 15, 1999, specifically looking at the cause and future prevention of injuries that may occur at greater alarm incidents.
    • Developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Arson Task Force relative to the investigation into the origin, cause, and circumstances regarding fires occurring in the City of San Francisco.
    • Reactivated Fire Division One - this division serves as the fire protection center for all the fire companies in the Financial District, North Beach/Chinatown/Fisherman's Wharf and South of Market areas.
    • The Arson unit has investigated hundreds of fire incidents and, as a member of the Arson Task Force, has assisted with 44 felony arrests and 19 misdemeanors.

  • Facility Renovations - The Department made significant improvements to its facilities in order to address its changing workforce and public access and safety. The following improvements were made over the last four years:
    • Considered and addressed gender privacy issues for all renovations to fire stations and work sites throughout the City.
    • Relocated SFFD Headquarters from 260 Golden Gate Avenue to 698 Second Street.
    • Facilitated the design, purchase, and installation of file systems, ergonomic workstations, training workstations, miscellaneous office, and conference room furnishings.
    • Directed warehouse renovations at 1415 Evans Street for the relocation of Arson, the Clothing Depot, and Medical Supplies.
    • Continued renovating all department firehouses to complete seismic upgrades, to appropriately accommodate all members with respect to locker/shower facilities, and to provide disability access.
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