The assistant deputy chief responsible for the San Francisco Fire Department's response in the case of terrorist attack has been bumped way back down the chain of command following a curious collision in Sonoma.

When you visit the SFFD's "Division of Homeland Security" page on their website, you're offered the opportunity to (internet) "Meet the Assistant Deputy Chief of Homeland Security." However, if you take this meeting opportunity (aka click on that link), all you'll see is this:


Perhaps this is because former assistant deputy chief Kyle Merkins had been the department's head of homeland security and special operations for the last two years. But last month, he was to demoted to lieutenant and sent to work on the SFFD's fire boat, according to the Chron.

Though SFFD officials wouldn't give a reason for the demotion, Chief Joanne Hayes-White confirmed that she "made the decision to return him to his permanent civil-service rank."

Merkins, who at 46 has been with the SFFD for 24 years, was stripped of his upper-level responsibilities following a months-long investigation into a Sonoma collision that might have involved his SFFD-issued Ford Taurus, the Chron reports.

According to driver Josh Eldridge, back on March 2, a car matching the description of Merkins' SFFD vehicle "clipped my bumper - he jostled me pretty good" then took off. When Eldridge followed, the Taurus driver "flipped on his lights and blew through the light."

Merkins, who does indeed live in Sonoma, was off-duty on the day of the collision.

Eldridge filed a report with the SFFD over the crash, was interviewed by investigators, but hasn't heard from the department since.

The strangest part of the whole story is that both Eldridge and the Sonoma police officers sent to examine the SFFD car parked at Merkins' home confirm that no actual damage was caused to either vehicle in the bump. So why did the driver of the red Taurus with emergency lights run?

"The funny thing," Eldridge told the Chron, "the damage was so minor, if he would have stopped and talked to me, I would have said, 'See you later, have a nice day.'"

Instead, however, it appears that Merkins, who once spent his days "coordinating efforts to obtain more resources and work with other agencies," is now on a fire boat on the Bay.