KPRC 2 Investigates: Harris, Waller County fire departments understaffed

Emergency Services District 200 has four stations “unstaffed,” according to director.

An Emergency Services District that covers 600 square miles in both Harris and Waller County is substantially understaffed and unable to man four of its fire departments with paid firefighters.

“We don’t staff every fire station but it is something we’re striving to do as we add more staff, more full-time staff,” ESD 200 Director, Tim Gibson, said.

The ESD’s current model calls for paid firefighters to staff all of its fire stations during weekday business hours, but there are not enough personnel to cover the stations, and so four of them are pressed into service far less often, relying on volunteers.

The issue has affected the Rolling Hills fire station in rural Waller County.

At Rolling Hills, during a 180-day period starting Jan. 1, 95 of them were unstaffed by firefighters, meaning no firefighters are at the station with the apparatus ready for immediate dispatch.

The issue was apparent on Sept. 12, when a small plane crashed five miles away from the Rolling Hills fire station. Nobody from that station responded.

Gibson said the issue had to do with dispatching from another agency, and Rolling Hills firefighters were never notified, even if they had been, there was nobody at the station.

Purely volunteer-type fire stations and departments are becoming less viable as the population explodes in the area.