HOUSTON – The Houston Fire Department chief said the staff was “maintaining operations” but “stretched thin” after additional firefighters were quarantined on Monday.
About 280 firefighters are in quarantine at the moment, many of whom were exposed to COVID-19 by family and friends, said HFD Chief Samuel Pena.
Fire Station 68′s ladder truck is one of six HFD trucks and other vehicles currently out of service because there aren’t enough firefighters to staff them, said Marty Lancton, HFD’s union president.
“On a perfect day, take COVID out of it, we don’t have the minimum staffing required for each apparatus,” Lancton said. “The fire department has lost hundreds of firefighters in the last couple of years.”
“Depending on CDC’s guidelines, we may be looking at bringing in firefighters that have been exposed but are not symptomatic,” Peña said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure we’re providing coverage for this community.”
On a typical shift, Fire Station 68, one of the busiest in Houston, would have 16 people. On Monday, they had 12.
As expected, residents who live near the fire station said they were unaware of staffing problems at the fire department.
Ladder trucks are used for things like an elevator and high angle rescues, so-called jaws of life rescues, trenches and collapses, and cutting holes in burning buildings for ventilation, among other things.
Chief Pena said many firefighters are voluntarily working extra shifts to make sure Houston is covered.