Female firefighters call for LAFD chief’s removal

Los Angeles firefighters and advocates for women on Monday called on Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas to resign following months of allegations that female firefighters face hazing, bullying and sexual harassment by their male colleagues.

Representatives of the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, Women’s March Action and the California National Organization for Women held a news event to denounce the treatment of women at the department.

“We call to the end of the good old boys club at the LAFD,” said Kolieka Siegel, president of the National Organization for Women. She also directly addressed the mayor, saying “Mayor Eric Garcetti, you have work to do.”

Jennifer Wilcox, a 13-year veteran of the Fire Department, said that “rampant sexism, racism, harassment and abuse continue to occur in a culture that has perpetuated this behavior year after year.”

“This is not just a female issue or a minority issue,” Wilcox said. “These are human rights issues.”

She also called on Garcetti to follow through on his 2013 promise to bring “much-needed change to the culture” of the Fire Department, an agency long dogged by allegations of racial and sex discrimination.

Terrazas, in a statement, said Monday that he recently met with the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service to “discuss collaborative initiatives to protect and enhance our work environments.”

“I respect the LAWFS and all our other fire service organizations and will continue to have open communication and meetings to move forward together,” Terrazas said.

A Times report in August detailed the “frat house” culture at the fire department and outlined allegations by female firefighters of hazing and bullying.

LAist.com on Friday reported on allegations of retaliation and discrimination at the department, with one female firefighter stating that she faced threats of sexual violence after she filed a workplace complaint.

A study in 2019 by the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service found widespread sexism at fire stations. The women said they were targeted with sexist remarks and nearly half said they hesitated to report misconduct, lest they be labeled “that kind of girl,” according to one female firefighter.

One of Garcetti’s commissioners on the Fire Commission, Rebecca Ninburg, testified during a court deposition earlier this year that the LAFD is a “a very hostile work environment for women, a very hostile work environment.”

“The women are not safe to speak. They cannot talk about their — what has happened to them. It is not safe to do that,” Ninburg said.

LAFD Battalion Chief Kris Larson, president of the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, also testified at a fire commission hearing last month that female firefighters refuse to file complaints about the hazing and abuse because they fear retaliation. She said female firefighters don’t trust the department’s complaint system and don’t think that their complaint will be “fairly administered.”

Garcetti’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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