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Concerns raised after HFD truck with expired tag replaces firetruck that burst into flames

HOUSTON – Last week a Houston Fire Department ladder truck caught fire just hours after it was serviced. A 21-year-old truck, "Reserve Ladder 11,″ was sent to take its place but it had an expired inspection/registration sticker, officials say.

The reserve truck had a Texas registration/inspection sticker that had expired in July 2019.

“Reserve Ladder-11 should NOT have had an expired inspection sticker, this issue should have been caught and remedied. Management is currently investigating how this issue occurred and are taking appropriate action,” the city’s Fleet Management Department wrote in a statement Monday.

However, it is not an isolated incident.

On Monday, KPRC 2 saw a fire engine, Engine 20, responding to an emergency call on the city’s Eastside with no registration/inspection sticker at all.

Houston Fire Department emergency vehicles are “exempt," which means there is no tax levied on these government vehicles for registration. But they are still required to be inspected and registered with the State of Texas.

A source, with knowledge of the process as it related to Houston Fire Department trucks, said Monday that the lack of a sticker could mean either the vehicle was not inspected in a timely manner, it was inspected but the paperwork not yet been completed, or it was inspected and a sticker was issued but it just hadn’t been applied to the truck yet.

Below is the full unedited response regarding the truck fire and registration sticker issue by Marchelle Cain, a public information officer for the City of Houston’s Fleet Management Department:

Reserve Ladder 11- Reserve Ladder-11 should NOT have had an expired inspection sticker, this issue should have been caught and remedied. Management is currently investigating how this issue occurred and are take appropriate action.

Ladder 4 -A Troubleshooter was dispatched on 02/05/2020 when it was reported that the Transmission was shifting into Neutral. The Troubleshooter diagnosed and found battery cables were loose at battery terminal and the Troubleshooter cleaned and tightened the cables back. The E.O road tested the unit and verified the issue was resolved.

The following day 02/06/2020, the unit was reported again for Transmission shifting into Neutral. The Troubleshooter was dispatched and while in the process of diagnosing the unit and realized there was an issue with the starter and could not start the unit. The Troubleshooter tried raising the aerial ladder up to gain access to the starter and noticed the smoke coming from underneath the unit. The Troubleshooter informed the firemen they will need to change out into a reserve unit so as to have enough time diagnose and repair the electrical issue. The unit is currently being diagnosed.