"The only (Rohnert Park) firefighters we saw were operating a hose line in back. That was not critical," Piccinini said. "In terms of actual firefighting, it was all done by all the other agencies."
Marty acknowledged the Beverly fire was a big experience for some Rohnert Park firefighters.
"I had a couple of people, they've been here a few years, but first big fire ... that's your career fire, your eyes are this big and you're sitting there and you, yeah, you might need to give them a direction," he said.
"Because let's face it, they're not a chief officer, they're a firefighter and they're doing the firefighter role, but they need someone with them," Marty said.
But he disputed suggestions that his officers weren't active on the fire, saying Rohnert Park police officers and firefighters were fulfilling the event's crucial duties: including evacuating residents, commanding the resources of the incident, running the truck used to refill firefighters' air tanks and the staging point.
"We were all over the place," he said.
Some confusion may have stemmed from the fact that some public safety officers remained in police uniforms rather than switching into firefighting turnouts, Marty said.
"They still look at, 'Oh, it's a cop, he's in a blue uniform,' but they were performing traditional firefighting duties," he said.
"If you're not in (firefighting gear) in an active structure fire, you are not working on that fire," Wandel said.
Utecht did not respond to several attempts to reach him for comment.
Questions of experience
Last Nov. 13, a mobile home on the west side of Rohnert Park caught fire. Rohnert Park Police Sgt. Jeff Justice was first to the scene and took on the job of incident commander.
He reported a fully involved mobile home fire, letting Rohnert Park, Rincon Valley and Rancho Adobe firefighters who were enroute know they wouldn't mount an attack to save the home, but would fight it defensively from outside and save nearby structures.
Rincon Valley's three-man engine from south Santa Rosa arrived first. The crew saw flames jumping from the front windows.
Rincon Valley Capt. Mark Dunn grabbed his gear and conducted the standard "hot lap" walk-around of a fire to quickly understand what was happening. While the front room was on fire, he found the rest of the home wasn't yet burning.
Dunn radioed Justice that they would go offensive, said Rancho's Wandel, who also responded.
"Rincon Valley evaluated and felt they could make a good stop," said Wandel, who had agreed with the call.
Changing tactics completely altered the effort, he said. Firefighters went inside, put out the flames and saved some photos, memorabilia and paperwork.
Marty agreed it was correct to attack the fire, but defended Justice's first take, based on what he could see.
Justice also made the right call when Dunn, from closer to the triple-wide mobile home, saw another tactic was possible, Marty said.
"The IC (incident commander) said. 'You're seeing this from a better perspective, I'm going to go with you,' " Marty said.
Justice did not respond to repeated attempts to reach him for comment.
Other fire officials say the fire illustrated differences in command experience.