Full Coverage: How a report of an LAFD chief deputy drunk during a major blaze sparked a scandal

A Los Angeles firefighter wears a department badge and shoulder patch on his uniform.
The Los Angeles Fire Department rapidly reversed a decision to put its social media accounts on hiatus and halt releasing records that show how long it takes rescuers to respond to calls for help.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Allegations that the top administrative commander in the Los Angeles Fire Department was drunk at work during a major blaze provoked sharp criticism within the agency and revived long-standing accusations of racial and sexual discrimination.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas’ staff did not file a complaint against Chief Deputy Fred Mathis for three days, even though department policy requires immediate action when a firefighter is suspected of being intoxicated.

In addition, a retroactive entry in Mathis’ timekeeping records listed him as being on sick leave the day he was reported to be intoxicated on duty. The incident occurred on May 18, when the department was battling the Palisades fire. Terrazas and Mathis have since retired.

How the Mathis affair was handled prompted claims that it had been covered up. LAFD officials who represent groups of Black, Latino and female firefighters complained that Terrazas gave Mathis, who is white and was one of two chief deputies in the department, special treatment that is not granted to employees of color and women accused of similar misconduct.

The scandal has led to a review by the U.S. attorney’s office into allegations of corruption in the department.