Fresno Fire emerging from ashes of Dern injury, recession

In the midst of a rebuilding, Fresno’s fire department is refocusing on firefighter safety after Captain Pete Dern’s devastating injury.


Donis is letting the SART chips fall where they may.


“I’ve intentionally stayed out of it so it can be authentic,” she says. “I’m not guiding the process. It is what it is. We need to take that information and make (department service) healthier and better and safer for our members and the citizenry.”

Donis says the aim of increased training is to “hold people accountable” for how they do their jobs.

“It’s not because I want to get you in trouble,” Donis says. “It’s because I care about you, and want you to go home at the end of the day.”

Donis says she’s also to be held accountable. She says there was “an ‘ouch’ factor” when she sat through preliminary discussions with the SART experts.

Donis says she won’t comment on what Dern, a good-sized man wearing lots of protective equipment on March 29, was doing on the roof of a burning house with no one inside it.

“I’m very intentional here – I’m not calling out or blaming Capt. Dern or anybody else in this incident, nor is the SART report,” Donis says. “Capt. Dern is a seasoned veteran who has gone on the roof probably a thousand times in his career. So, he was very confident in what his approach was to ventilate that building. No one is criticizing that.

“I think once we collect and look at all the information, we can just say: ‘Here it is. What can we learn from this, and what can we do differently? Not blaming anyone, but, just saying, do we need to go to the roof every time?’”

Donis says Fresno firefighters will risk it all to save the life of another human. She says there’s no reason for firefighters to risk their lives simply to save four walls and a roof.

“That’s the mantra we need to focus on – safety first,” Donis says. “Everything else is secondary.”

1 comment
  1. I’ve followed the Pete Dern event from day one as I’ve a relative who is also a Fresno Fire Fighter and this came close to home, even though I live over 200 miles away. I have to commend Chief Kerri Donis for her willingness to accept criticism and see it as opportunity. As a tax payer and former government employee I can appreciate BOTH sides of the “coin” and also the emotional issues. However, I agree with the Chief’s vision – training is THE KEY in all things. If you tuck your knuckles under while holding the onion and learn to slice it in that manner over and over eventually you will have a sliced onion in seconds and not minutes (I’ve never learned to do so, but then agin I never attended Culinary School nor have I practiced repeatedly – so now when I slice onions I cry) AND here is the “KEY”- application, physically doing the training, is essential, time consuming, and costly. If NOT done properly we all end up crying. I hope ALL Fire Chief’s across our Nation ask for Fresno’s SART Report. I’ll be asking my local Fire Chief’s to request it – I used to believe the Police/Sheriff/Marshal departments kept me safe, however EVERY incident where I’ve needed help immediately, it’s been the Fire Department that arrived FIRST. I want all my fire department personnel’s safety FIRST – Maybe I’m just selfish!

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