Bryan Sky-Eagle of the Houston Firefighter's Union said a brownout is causing up to seven minute delays, making all the difference between life and death.
Last month, the City of Houston agreed to keep all fire trucks in service provided that the two week average for unscheduled absences does not exceed 35 members per day. If this number is exceeded, the city can remove units from service.
The city is now in a phase 2, level 1 brownout, meaning six engines, one ladder truck, six ambulances and one medic unit are out of commission.
"This is the most we've had since the settlement agreement was in place, since we've had this," Sky-Eagle said.
He said when that happens, firefighters have to fill the holes, traveling to other stations, where the engines are still in service.
"This is a musical -- if you will -- chairs for firefighters to staff which apparatuses," Sky-Eagle said.
There were two major car accidents on Saturday.
Sky-Eagle said the response time to one was probably double what it should have been because the closest fire engine was browned out. Now that summer is approaching, he fears it
"June 1 kids will be out of school," Sky-Eagle said. "Firemen have pre-scheduled vacations they're going to be taking and its going to get worse before it gets better."