HOUSTON – Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena wants to make it clear that he is working with the mayor to improve the city’s aging emergency equipment fleet.
“Twenty-million dollars in the last year and a half is significant. We have a commitment to address the requests for FY19. We’re working through the budget process right now, it is going to be tight. Everyone is taking a haircut but, certainly, public safety has been a priority for the mayor,” Pena said in an interview Monday.
Pena’s statement on the matter comes at a time when issues with equipment are increasing and morale is decreasing.
In the last two weeks, because of maintenance issues, a fire engine caught fire and an ambulance leaked carbon monoxide, sending two paramedics to the hospital.
At least two more fire engines broke down this past weekend, and one of them had to be pushed out of the fire station by a group of firefighters.
On Monday, Pena said that firefighters have a responsibility to reject equipment that is not safe for use.
“They do have the authority to not accept a certain vehicle if they think it’s not safe,” he said.
In a video obtained by Channel 2 Investigates of the ambulance leaking carbon monoxide, a paramedic can be heard saying, “This is Medic 3, the one they said we had to have.”
“We are operating -- I think it’s no secret -- with bare minimum equipment. Harvey put an additional strain on our resource capacity,” Pena said.
To date, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not released any funds related to a federal grant to replace Houston Fire Department emergency equipment that was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.