Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

News

Women Firefighters Call For Chief Terrazas' Resignation: There Is A Lack Of 'Accountability And Action' In LAFD

An image of the Los Angeles Fire Department logo, embroidered on a firefighters sleeve
(Libby Denkman
/
LAist)
LAist relies on your reader support.
Your tax-deductible gift today powers our reporters and keeps us independent. We rely on you, our reader, not paywalls to stay funded because we believe important news and information should be freely accessible to all.

A group of women firefighters is calling for the resignation of LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas in a letter sent Monday to Mayor Eric Garcetti, citing what they say is the chief's failure to address a pervasive racist and sexist culture in the department.

“Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas has ignored, downplayed, denied, or actively obstructed any investigation into the cultural problems within LAFD,” said Kris Larson, President of Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service. “There is a lack of both accountability and action from the Fire Chief, who, when informed of these incidents, merely brushes them off as 'one-offs' or 'pockets' — as he calls them — for all these incidents.”

Of these incidents, recounted by OC Fire Authority Capt. Lauren Andrade with the group Equity on Fire, was more than one alleged rape that first occurred in 2016.

Support for LAist comes from

“Someone that I worked with, who I have ran into burning buildings with, who is supposed to have my back took everything from me… I was raped in a fire station by a fellow firefighter,” said the victim in her statement read by Andrade.

LAWFS spokesperson Naomi Goldman said that the rape allegations were investigated by the LAFD Professional Standards Division. The rapes were brought to their attention by a person other than the alleged victim.

"When the Department learned about this matter, we immediately conducted an internal administrative investigation and referred the case to the LAPD to conduct a criminal investigation,"said Cheryl Getuiza, Director of Government Affairs for the LAFD. "LAPD detectives did not file a criminal report."

Chief Terrazas said that he has met with the group and “will continue to have open communication and meetings to move forward together.”

Mayor Garcetti issued a response to the group’s letter saying “Chief Terrazas has done an excellent job leading and rebuilding our fire department during some of our toughest days ever and I have full confidence in him,” and that he is also “working closely with the chief and others in this conversation to accelerate transformative, institutional reforms.”

Support for LAist comes from

The group says that there are at least three active lawsuits naming the LAFD and that in the last year, 63 Equal Employment Opportunity complaints have been made against the department. Between 2016 and 2018, they noted that the department has spent 30 million dollars to either settle or adjudicate similar complaints.

The announcement comes in the wake of our investigation that found the city of L.A. has failed to root out hazing and abuse of women at its fire department.

LAFD firefighters shared stories of hostile pranks — like rotten chicken stuffed in a duffel bag and vandalized equipment — isolation, derogatory language and threats. Reporting abuse is discouraged, they said, through intimidation and retaliation.

The city began surfacing allegations of gender discrimination and racism at LAFD decades ago, in the mid-1990s. In 2006, an independent review of management practices at LAFD ordered by City Controller Laura Chick found a “prevalent perception of a hostile workplace which has resulted in employees not reporting incidents of harassment and hazing due to fear of retaliation.”

LAFD says it has zero tolerance for misconduct and it investigates all allegations thoroughly.

Support for LAist comes from

The city began surfacing allegations of gender discrimination and racism at LAFD decades ago, in the mid-1990s. In 2006, an independent review of management practices at LAFD ordered by City Controller Laura Chick found a “prevalent perception of a hostile workplace which has resulted in employees not reporting incidents of harassment and hazing due to fear of retaliation.”

Mayor Garcetti said he’s committed to finishing an independent report first requested by Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service back in 2017. Results of that survey are expected as early as December, according to the LAFD.

The women who spoke to KPCC and LAist, however, say they’ve seen city audits come and go, and nothing seems to correct the root issues enabling abuse at LAFD.

Nationally, about 4% of professional firefighters are female. At LAFD, women make up about 3.5% of 3,300 sworn firefighters.

LAist staff contributed to this story.

Support for LAist comes from
What questions do you have about politics, voting or elections?
Politics reporter Libby Denkmann cuts through the jargon to provide a ‘road map’ for navigating our democratic process.