Video of Stripper Getting Out of San Jose Firetruck Ignites Internet Firestorm, City Probe

The San Jose Fire Department is continuing its investigation of the circumstances surrounding last week's release of an undated video showing a bikini-clad stripper stepping out of a city firetruck and walking into the Pink Poodle strip club on South Bascom Avenue.

The 19-second video went viral across multiple social media platforms almost immediately after it was posted on Instagram Oct 6, first by a private individual, then by an Instagram account called San Jose Foos, which has 108,000 followers. It then continued to roar like a wildfire across news platforms – Fox, CNN, CBS, even to People and the UK’s Daily Mail.

The video includes the caption, “Only in San Jose do you see a stripper come out of a firetruck.”

Many commenters reacted with humor, even sympathy to the video of a San Jose firetruck taken from a distance in the dark. The camera zooms in to show a woman wearing a skimpy white bikini and spike heels stepping out of the Type 1 fire engine and walking into the strip club; then it repeats in a loop.

City officials didn’t see any humor in it.

“If the investigation concludes that this video is as bad as it looks, then heads must roll,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “We cannot have a life-critical emergency rescue apparatus relegated to a frat party bus, nor tolerate any conduct that so demeans the heroic work of the rest of our SJFD team.”

The mayor called Fire Chief Robert Sapien Jr. “one of our nation’s finest chiefs” whom he expects to “respond accordingly.”

Sapien said his internal investigation is continuing. Other than announcing it is investigating the video, the department provided few details.

“The department has become aware of a concerning video posted on social media,” Sapien said in a statement. “An investigation has been initiated to determine facts surrounding the video.”

The fire department said in a statement that if its investigation finds there was “inappropriate behavior of any department members, appropriate steps will be taken to address the matter.”

The firefighters union also is taking it seriously. Firefighters Local 230 tweeted the next day: “We are aware of the situation. This union does not condone what was seen on video. The fire department is handling and investigating. This does not represent the values of San Jose firefighters Local 230. “

Here is a sampling of random Twitter responses last week:

  • “Why is no one asking why this guy was filming the firetruck and happens to zoom in with perfect timing when the young lady leaves the truck. This doesn't seem like a setup at all. Is this really what the city needs to spend time and money reviewing?”
  • “That's somebody dropping their wife or girlfriend off for work. No, he shouldn't be doing that, but come on people. She's dressed for work,  going to work clearly. For all of the prudes, that's what's going on here in this ‘scandalous’ video. Ppl need to get lives, for real.”
  • “I live downtown and I've seen sjfd picking up drunk girls in their trucks on weekends more than once.”
  • “Please don't help perpetuate something based on a few seconds of video. There are many possibilities. We don't see any firefighters in the video. People are drawing conclusions and making assumptions based on a few seconds of video that don't show the whole story.”
  • " ‘If it's as bad as it looks, heads must roll.’ “ How does this appear so terrible that someone, or persons ‘must’ lose their job? Are firemen that expendable? Maybe the mayor, who just lowered morale, should go?”
  • “I thought well hell, someone at the fire dept has a girlfriend who works there, dropped her off for work. Although if it was a party bus moment, they're in soooo much trouble.”

The fire department said in a statement:

“San José Fire Department is committed to serving the community by protecting life, property, and the environment through prevention and response. It is the goal of the department to serve the community with courtesy and service. As such, it takes all feedback regarding the conduct of its employees seriously.”

“If findings of an internal investigation reveal inappropriate behavior of any Department members, appropriate steps will be taken to address the matter. The City of San José Code of Ethics policy guides the conduct of all City employees. All City of San José employees are expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics Policy they have agreed to as a condition of their employment.”


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. Yes, “the optics” don’t look good, But, let the Fire Chief do his investigation and handle it.

    Now for our lame duck mayor who says that “heads must roll”, he needs to stay out of personnel matters and mind his own business. That comment of his was inflammatory and unnecessary as well as way inappropriate. Sam is just being an a**hole here and he needs to ride off into the sunset. Let’s hope that Chief Sapien has the courage to ignore Sam and conduct a fair and impartial investigation, without pressure from our “Mayor”. If anyone is fired over this, then it will become immediately clear as to who actually runs the SJFD.

  2. Mayor Liccardo said, “heads must roll”?

    That is disturbingly vivid language for someone who recently coerced city employees with the threat of lost employment for declining an EUA vaccine or booster.

    Decapitate the unvaxxed. Metaphorically, of course. That will be Hizzoner’s disgraceful legacy of vicious scapegoating.

  3. Low morale high addiction ptsd no replacements high call volume and still time have time for visitors licardo and sapien answer to the donors
    Firefighters are not guaranteed a life of employment
    Fall below standards move on

  4. Harmless, maybe her car broke down in the middle of busy road, and they rescued her. All the crime that goes down, and you make this news??? Last time I checked working in a strip club is a legal profession.

  5. At first glance, this appears to be a lapse in judgment by the officer in charge. My question- are we really that surprised that in a nation where HUGE “lapses” in judgment are done on a daily basis by even the highest federal employees- that an officer, a crew (or all of them) exercised a lapse in a non- emergency setting?
    I, instead, though not condoning this seemingly foolish behavior, am very thankful for the every day emergency performance of these firefighters. They put their lives, their stress, their health and their families second to us citizens every minute they work. Perhaps a little perspective is appropriate here.

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