HFD budget cuts could mean slower response times

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

HOUSTON - It could soon take a little longer for an ambulance or fire truck to get to your house after the Houston Fire Department makes some tough cuts.

On Thursday, a Houston City Council committee told the fire department to figure out a way to make more than $8 million in cuts to cover overtime cost overruns.

Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison said, "I think it's going to result in slower response times which is potential; people that are suffering from EMS calls could be suffering a little bit longer. Burning houses and buildings are going to burn a little bit longer."

Chief Garrison will start what he called "brownouts."  He said that means not staffing some fire trucks, ambulances or other equipment. If there is a fire in your neighborhood and a fire truck is not available, it could be called from another station farther away.

HFD Captain Jeff Joseph said "Am I okay with the cuts? I'm not OK with jeopardizing the safety of citizens or firefighters. If cuts jeopardize that, I'm not OK with that."

City leaders said if the fire department could not stay within its budget, then the money could come from another city department or the city could cut what it pays into the firefighter's pension.

"There is no pot of gold waiting for us. We have to find it somewhere. And we will probably find it by not paying our pension obligations to you," said Houston City Council Member Dave Martin.

Mayor Annise Parker said she supported the committee's recommendation and the chief's cuts. Chief Garrison said the cuts will happen soon.

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