46ºF

Houston firefighters claim city is endangering public by reducing staff

HOUSTON – Houston firefighters called a press conference Monday to say that the city is putting them and it’s citizens in mortal danger by reducing staffing on HFD trucks from four to three firefighters.

And in doing it, they say, the city is violating a sacred trust.

The increased staffing was agreed on by the city after the death of Fire Capt. Jay Jahnke, which was almost 20 years ago.

Capt. Jahnke was trapped trying to save a resident in the Four Leaf towers condominium fire in October 2001. Firefighters say a lack of manpower contributed to his death, prompting the city to agree to increase staffing from three to four firefighters per truck.

But the Houston Professional Fire Fighters' Association said on Oct. 31, the department violated the rule by reducing staffing on three different trucks.

Firefighters and Capt. Jahnke’s family members urged the fire chief and mayor to reverse the course.

“How many deaths is it going to take for this city and this HFD administration to do the right thing?" said Rene Yahnke, cousin of Jay Jahnke.

“I do not want this to happen, what happened to my brother Jay to anyone else or their families. I don’t want them to go through what we went through," said Mary Ann, sister of Jay Jahnke.

“History is repeating itself. Is it going to take a disaster of large loss of property and life before these changes are reinforced," said Steve Williams, former president of Houston Professional Fire Fighters' Association.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena calls it a “continuous campaign of misinformation” on the part of the firefighters association. He said the department is wrestling with manpower shortages due to quarantine and retirements.

“So, we’re managing the consequences of that, I can tell you that our focus is to ensure that all the units that are in service are fully staffed and operational. Our priority is to give priority to the ambulances and to the fire engines and to have every fire station staffed," Pena said.