Exterior of San Jose Fire Department's Station 8
San Jose Fire Station 8 was broken into earlier this month, and firefighters are asking for more safety measures. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Two recent incidents have San Jose firefighters questioning the dangers of their job beyond the blazes they battle.

On March 2, someone broke into San Jose Fire Department’s Station 8 on E. Santa Clara Street in downtown and stole equipment and personal property. A few days later, a firefighter responding to a call at Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall was assaulted and injured. The department is looking to improve safety for its firefighters while they’re on the job, and the union wants to see results.

“The San Jose Fire Department will be reassessing security procedures to confirm best practices are followed to ensure the safety of employees and protect critical infrastructure, which is integral in providing life-safety services to the San Jose community,” San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien, Jr. said in a statement.

SJFD spokesperson Jake Pisani told San José Spotlight he could not share more information about the juvenile hall incident, as it’s an ongoing investigation. Regarding the break-in, he said the station crew had been out responding to a call and returned to find the station’s front door kicked in.

San Jose Firefighters Local 230 President Matt Tuttle said the station break-in was like having one’s home broken into, especially because firefighters spend one-third of their life at the station. He added that while a firefighter’s job is “inherently dangerous,” these incidents present unexpected dangers that can interfere with work.

“We shouldn’t be worrying about whether or not our fire station is broken into, we should be worrying about the next person who is calling 911 for our help,” Tuttle told San José Spotlight.

Sapien said the department is in communication with the county’s Probation Department to better ensure personnel safety while firefighters respond to emergencies.

In response to the incident at juvenile hall, Tuttle said the union expects SJFD to review response models for that location and similar types of calls, emphasizing that the department needs to better protect its firefighters.

As for the break-in, this isn’t the first time a station has been broken into, Tuttle said. He added that more measures need to be in place to protect stations from future incidents.

“If there’re more security measures that can be put into place, then absolutely that needs to happen,” he said.

Station 8 in particular is slated for relocation and reconstruction. The city broke ground on the new location last October. Pisani said repairs are being made at Station 8 after the break-in.

Tuttle pointed out some stations have open back areas, so there may be a need for installing security gates. He also said the union would be open to exploring other security features, such as more lighting or cameras.

These safety concerns came only a few days before the International Association of Fire Fighters held its annual legislative conference. While in Washington, D.C., leaders from multiple regional fire unions such as San Jose’s Local 230 met with federal representatives, including Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna and Jimmy Panetta. In the meeting, union leaders raised concerns about cuts to federal grant funding and regional staffing shortages.

“Our end goal is to advocate for the safety of our members, whether that is personal safety or station security,” Tuttle told San José Spotlight. “We want to make sure that they’re feeling as comfortable as possible so that they can do their jobs effectively.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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