HFD firefighters pitch tent, wait for tow after truck breaks down in Kingwood

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Channel 2 Investigates has learned a rotating group of Houston firefighters equipped with a tent, waited with a broken HFD fire truck for about 11 hours.

The rotating crews were on-duty but unavailable to respond to emergency calls during the overnight event in Kingwood.

"Nobody gave them direction as to checking on them, where do they go, there was no water, no restrooms out there, and no one gave them direction," Patrick Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said.

Ladder 101, a 14-year-old apparatus, failed after a back-to-school event at River Grove Park in Kingwood. Attempts to move or tow the truck were apparently unsuccessful.

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HFD General Orders state that crews are to remain with incapacitated equipment.

When the minutes became hours, a family member of an HFD firefighter brought a tent to the location.

Channel 2 Investigates has learned and confirmed through HFD administration that the truck that broke down had previously been written-up for the problem.

Fleet maintenance is not handled by the Houston Fire Department. The City of Houston's Fleet Maintenance Division is responsible for fixing fire trucks.

On Monday, a representative for Fleet Maintenance said she would not be able to answer the question of why the truck was not fixed previously until Tuesday.

On Aug 21, the day after this story originally aired, Marchelle Cain, Deputy Assistant Director of the City of Houston's Fleet Management Department, emailed this statement regarding the incident:

“The Fleet Management Department has determined that errors were made. Appropriate personnel corrective action will be taken to ensure that this type of event is not repeated. We consider public safety and homeland security to be of critical importance in protecting the health and welfare of our employees and the citizens of Houston.”

Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Pena offered this response via email, Monday:

“On August 16 while attending a PR event along with HPD at River Grove Park, Ladder 101 experienced a problem with the apparatus’ suspension air bag causing the unit to be placed out of service. Multiple attempts were made to tow the unit but were unsuccessful due to the remote and limited access location of the apparatus and the possibility of causing additional damage to the ladder by attempting to tow the vehicle. The decision was made by the company’s District Chief to have the crew remain with the unit to prevent any theft or vandalism. Mechanics from the City’s Fleet Management Department (FMD) secured the needed parts and repaired the unit on-site the following morning. Any additional questions concerning maintenance on this ladder should be addressed with FMD. We commend the crew and FMD for protecting taxpayer assets from further damage.”

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