SJ Fire Chief Provides Details of Fire Crew’s Stops at Strip Club and Local Bar While on Duty

San Jose firefighters gave a woman in a bikini outside a city strip club a ride around the block in an emergency vehicle at her request, after giving a ride to a male strip club employee, Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr. reported to the mayor and city council Tuesday.

He also said the fire crew stopped briefly outside a local bar after leaving the strip club, before returning to the fire station.

In a memo dated April 25, Sapien told council members that unspecified “appropriate disciplinary action” had been taken and that he considered his investigation of the Oct. 5 incident closed.

The fire chief said his report was prepared “in light of significant public inquiries related to the video published on social media on Oct 6, 2022.”

The video taken by a bystander showed a woman wearing only a bikini stepping out of a fire department emergency vehicle and walking into The Pink Poodle, a Bascom Avenue strip club.

“The city has been conservative with information regarding findings from the investigation initiated on Oct. 7, involving an emergency response vehicle positioned in front of The Pink Poodle out of respect for the due process rights of involved personnel,” wrote Sapien.

“On Oct.5, 2022, the crew assigned to a fire engine company transported an unauthorized, male passenger from a fire station to his place of employment at The Pink Poodle located at 328 S. Bascom Avenue,” leaving the fire station at 9pm and arriving at the strip club a few minutes later, the fire chief said in his memo. .

“While stopped in front of The Pink Poodle, an unauthorized female climbed into the cab of the fire engine and requested a ride-along,” Sapien wrote. “The crew first declined to provide the female with a ride-along; however, she persisted and was driven partially around the block and returned to The Pink Poodle at approximately 9:10pm.

He said the fire engine “departed The Pink Poodle at approximately 9:10pm and traveled to an industrial area and stopped at 1111 Auzerais Avenue in the vicinity of AJ’s Restaurant and Bar at approximately 9:14pm,” where it remained “for approximately two minutes…before returning to the fire station at approximately 9:20pm.”

“The use of a city vehicle to transport unauthorized passengers violated city and Fire Department policies, including the city’s Code of Ethics and Use of City and Personal Vehicles policies as well as the Fire Department’s Ride-Along Program,” Sapien wrote.

He added that “taking the fire engine outside of the area to which it is assigned without being dispatched to a call for service violated city and department policies, including the Fire Department’s Policies and Procedures for Leaving First-In Response Area.”

He said the city followed due process with regard to its disciplinary action, and that no appeal of the discipline has been filed.

Sapien told the council that the city manager has reminded all city employees that they ”are expected to demonstrate the highest standards of personal integrity, honesty and conduct in all activities in order to inspire public confidence and trust in city employees.”

Memo from San Jose Fire Chief Robert Sapien

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. From the picture posted it appears the young woman is so scantily clothed she must have been freezing and thus her life may have been in danger. Thus, the Firefighters allowed her trespassory interlude into the cab of the Fire Vehicle for warmth and reconstitution of her physical wellness.

    The Firefighters should be commended for possibly saving the life of this young lady and not vilified by prudish sentiments bellowed from the jealous Mayor and Council.

    David S. Wall

  2. The whole thing seems like a lot of noise about nothing. We have a lot more important things to worry about and spend tax dollars on investigating and reporting on than this.
    If you’re angry at the fire department, ask them to go back to working 8 hour shifts 5 days a week and not to use the trucks to drive to the grocery store.

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