Chief's Aide Eileen McCrystle
Battalion Nos. 1, 2 and 3 swing

Eighteenth St. and Wood -- Oakland Staging
Pineneedle Dr.
Broadway Terrace and Aquarius
San Francisco Command Post

"I was working out at the Plaza Athletic Club gym on Third St. in the City," Chief's Aide McCrystle said, "when I just heard a mention on my way out the door that `Berkeley was on fire.' I left immediately and was driving on the bridge, and thought, `Yea, a pretty good amount of smoke.' I took Highway 80, then 580 eastbound to my house on 35th Ave in Oakland, about four-or-five miles from the Montclair District.

"I got home and began to check my house and on my neighbors to make sure they were okay. I listened to KCBS for a while and then decided there was nothing more I could do there."

Chief's Aide McCrystle then called Oakland Fire Alarm on a non- emergency number, identified herself as an off-duty San Francisco firefighter and told them she wanted to volunteer.

"The Oakland dispatcher said, `Get down here, we need you.'

"Fortunately," she said, "I had my turnouts and all my gear loaded in my car because I'm in the swing [A duty cycle in which she rotates through three different battalion districts]. The Oakland dispatcher said to go to 18th and Wood in Oakland, and when I arrived at 2 p.m., I checked in and identified myself as an off-duty firefighter.

"There were a number of other off-duty firefighters from various departments there, and we sat and watched the fire on television or talked for a couple of hours.

"Nothing was happening, so I left at 4 p.m., and then ran into Lt. George Garcia from Radio [assistant watch commander at the San Francisco Fire Department Communications Center]."

"We didn't know where San Francisco command was," she said, "so we decided to go through the area around Pineneedle Dr. and help people evacuate.

"Then, around 5 p.m., we parked my car at Mountain and Thornhill. Lieutenant Garcia and I put on our full turnouts and walked north on Mountain Blvd. to the fire line to assist any fire units we could.

"At 5:15 p.m., we met a police officer at Mountain and Broadway Terrace.

"Lieutenant Garcia and I exchanged friendly conversation with the officer, then we walked along Florence St. and met up with a crew on a U.S. Navy fire engine. Lieutenant Garcia and I asked them if they needed help because the fire was coming in our direction.

"I was standing by when -- at 5:50 p.m. -- the police officer approached and inquired if I had my Department I.D. with me. I told him I did not have it on me. At this time, Lt. Garcia was 40 feet away with his back turned away from us.

"So, the officer ordered me out of the area because he said I was not Fire Department personnel. I told him I worked for the Department, and he insisted I was not a firefighter, but a `fire groupie.'

"He again ordered me out of the area. I told him I wanted to get Lt. Garcia and we would both immediately leave the area. He wouldn't even let me do that. I had my badge with me. I took it out of my back pocket and showed it to him.

"He immediately grabbed my badge and put it in his right breast pocket. I was surprised and tried to take it back. He then said, `I've had enough,' and took his handcuffs out of his back pocket and put them on me. He started to swear at me, and I began shouting for Lt. Garcia. The lieutenant came over, and at first had this look of disbelief and asked, `What happened?'

"The police officer said, `I don't believe she is in the Fire Department.' Lieutenant Garcia showed his Department I.D. and identified me as a San Francisco firefighter.

"The fire was bearing down on us, and the Navy crew was ready to back out, but that didn't seem to matter. The police officer said he wanted a battalion chief to come over from San Francisco, identify me and then take me back to the City.

"Lieutenant Garcia was still talking to the officer when he put me in the back of the radio car. The officer simply was not listening to what Lt. Garcia had to say. He then took me to Oakland Fire Station 24, where he got out of the car and said, `Well, let's be civil about this,' and he took the `cuffs off.

"He went in to make telephone call, and then came back in 5 or 10 minutes. He didn't say anything, but then drove north on Highway 13 through the fire. He then made the comment, `Well, if you are a real firefighter, I'm gonna take you where you really belong.'

"We got to San Francisco Command at the Claremont Hotel at about 6:10 p.m. He got out of his radio car and spoke with Battalion Chief Roybal. I don't know what the chief said to the officer, but he returned within a few minutes and told me to `Check in with the guy with the white cap.'

"I reported in to Battalion Chief Roybal, and then asked the police officer for my helmet. As he was reaching for it, I asked him for his name and badge number. He said, `Get out of my face, or I'll throw you back in the car and take you to jail. Next time you want to play firefighter, do it in your own home.'

"I asked him what he meant by that. He replied, `San Francisco.'

"Two Berkeley police officers overheard the last remark, and both offered their business cards and told me to call if they could be of any assistance."

Chief's Aide McCrystle was then assigned to command post duties.

"I then began to assist Chief's Aide Jerry Coghlin, and I was also the Department's liaison with the Oakland command post. I also assisted in deploying Capt. Conroy's task force to Fish Ranch Rd. where the fire was coming over the hill." Chief's Aide McCrystle also helped provide food service to firefighters returning from the fire lines.

"I was there until midnight," she said, "because I had be on duty the next day."

Lt. George Garcia
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