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A head and shoulders photo of Richmond Fire Chief Angel Montoya in a black or navy uniform with an embroidered Fire Department badge on the left arm and a metal badge over his left breast pocket. His name badge is over the right breast pocket. He is clean shaven with cropped salt and pepper hair and is smiling.

Richmond Fire Chief Angel Montoya is out

on October 27, 2023

Richmond firefighters received a department-wide email Thursday notifying them that Fire Chief Angel Montoya was no longer with the Richmond Fire Department, and that Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Osorio would be acting chief for the time being. 

The email, which Richmond Confidential reviewed, did not detail what prompted Montoya’s departure or if it was his choice.

The decision follows a plea for change from Richmond Firefighters Local 188, which in July, issued a vote of no confidence in Montoya’s leadership. Recently, the union has been speaking out on social media about the department’s low staffing levels, high overtime hours and firefighter’s deteriorating mental health.

“We can now start to rebuild,” Mike Velazquez, president of Local 188, said Friday.

In taking the vote of no confidence, the union alleged that Montoya refused to address safety issues, was unwilling to confer with members and was frequently absent, according to a July news release.  

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, firefighters said the lack of leadership has affected their lives inside the fire station and out, and urged City Manager Shasa Curl to take action. 

Donnie Rath, a fire engineer, told the council he has worked 1,364 hours of mandated overtime in addition to his regular 56-hour work weeks. 

“I don’t know in what world it’s appropriate for fire engineers to be on duty against our will for weeks at a time and still be expected to take care of our apparatus, go to training, and serve the citizens of Richmond,” Rath said.

This month, the California Public Employment Relations Board filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the city based on Local 188’s claims. The union contended that Montoya interfered with union-protected activity, such as telling Osorio to send written requests to all battalion chiefs to report all Local 188 activities to him. 

Richmond Confidential asked Montoya for comment about the PERB claims and the firefighters’ concerns. In an email Tuesday, Montoya asked the news site for specific questions, adding that he would consult with his labor attorney. He has not yet responded to those questions.

Montoya’s attorney, Monna Radulovich, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mayor Eduardo Martinez and the city manager’s office would not comment on the decision because it is a personnel matter.

Overworked and understaffed, Richmond 911 dispatch requires poise under pressure: ‘Some people can handle it, and some people can’t.’

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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