The San Francisco Black Firefighters Association (SFBFA) was founded in 1972 and is a chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF), which has 121 chapters and over 8000 members.
Our purpose for forming the SFBFA and joining forces with the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) was to align with the efforts of firefighters on a national basis to address issues facing Black firefighters. Our mission, now and in the future, is to work towards eradicating discriminatory practices within the SFFD that limit the recruitment, hiring, promoting, training, and education of Black and minority fire service professionals.
Since its inception, the SFBFA has driven significant changes within the SFFD. In 1988, the SFBFA went to federal court to challenge the city and county of San Francisco, specifically the SFFD, to address the treatment of Black fire service professionals and to create a non-hostile and non-threatening work environment for all —and won.
This effort resulted in the issuance of a consent decree from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, mandating the SFFD to “clean up its act.” Since then, all ranks of the Departments have been integrated, and the racial makeup of the SFFD better reflects the diversity of San Francisco.
No single act can address or solve the issues affecting Black and minority fire service professionals.
So the SFBFA has expanded its mission to work toward:
Developing state-of-the-art fire education and training programs
Acquiring first-rate fire training equipment and tools
Ramping up our recruitment of youths into the fire service
Increasing our community outreach to underserved communities
Forging inter-group relations and sharing best practices with local and national fire departments and associations
Improving fire prevention and safety programs in the areas in greatest need
The Legacy Continues
The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters is a fraternal organization, not a labor organization within the fire service, and is composed of Black and minority fire service professionals. The idea of forming an international organization of Black firefighters was first advanced by Vincent Julius and John Ruffins, both members of the Vulcan Society of New York, in 1960. It took nine years before a national effort could be mounted, which occurred only after the 1968 civil disturbances.
In September of 1969, Black and minority firefighters of all ranks from municipalities across the United States met in New York City for two days of discussion on the injustices that exist in the following categories: The recruitment of Black Youth in the fire service, firefighters’ community relations and practices in fire departments, and the need to improve fire prevention programs in the areas of greatest need, the inner city ghettos which are inhabited by our most disadvantaged, neglected and exploited citizens. The meeting was very productive and out of it was born the IABPFF.
In October of 1970, the first Black Professional Fire Fighters convention was held in Hartford, Connecticut. The constitution and the proposed structure of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters were adopted at this meeting. Since then, the IABPFF has grown to form regions and chapters across the United States.
The IABPFF is convinced that the African American and other minority communities have abundant untapped talent to offer the fire service. Conversely, we expect to improve the economic development and employment opportunities for minorities.