Alameda County Firefighters Under Fire Over Lunar New Year Card Deemed Racially Insensitive

Members of the East Bay's Asian and Pacific Islander community held a news conference Monday morning in Oakland to call out a Lunar New Year card sent out by the Alameda County Fire Department.

Organizers of the news conference, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center listed at 388 Ninth St., are calling for an investigation after personnel at Station 22 in San Leandro distributed a holiday card that they say depicts firefighters acting out racist stereotypes.

The card features an image of three firefighters wearing conical bamboo hats, sometimes known as rice hats or paddy hats, and posing in a classic open-top fire engine parked inside the station.

"That is shocking to the community," spokesman Carl Chan said in an interview just before the news conference Monday morning.

"It also hurts the reputation of many firefighters who are saving lives every day," Chan said.

Chan also said that in late April his organization received anonymous allegations of racial discrimination and harassment at the fire department's dispatch center, and they want county leadership to make sure those issues get addressed.

Fire Chief David Rocha declined to be interviewed on the controversy, but a spokesman for the department issued a statement on his behalf saying that Alameda County Fire is taking the allegations seriously.

"It is inconsistent with our values and the respect we demand our employees demonstrate toward the communities we serve," Rocha said. "The matter is under investigation as a personnel matter; as such, we have no further comment."

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