Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Robert Demmons: First African American Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department

Interviewee(s):
Demmons, Robert
Interviewer(s):
Farrell, Shanna
Title:
Robert Demmons: First African American Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department
Abstract:
Robert Demmons was the first African American Fire Chief for the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD). He joined the department in 1974 and was successfully promoted through the ranks. He was sworn in as Chief on January 17, 1996. In this interview, Demmons discusses his childhood and education, early career with PG&E, taking the civil service exam for the SFFD, roles held in the fire stations, joining and reforming the Black Fire Fighters Association from a social organization to an advocacy group, taking on leadership roles, working to integrate the department, challenges and triumphs, discrimination, legal battles and the consent decree, working with city officials, moving up the ranks and into the role of Chief, creating effective programs for training, strategic plans, neighborhood engagement, and paramedics merger, reforming exams, retirement, and his hopes for the future.
Subject area(s):
Community and Identity
Commerce, Industry, and Labor
Interview date(s):
2016
Project:
California Fire Departments
Rights:
Demmons, Robert. "Robert Demmons: First African American Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department." Interview by Shanna Farrell in 2016. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2017.