Fire Chief Sam Pena Addresses Health and Safety Concerns of Firefighters During Extreme Heat
HOUSTON – The health and safety of our firefighters is our primary concern. Maintaining functioning Air Conditioning on fire apparatus during the peak summer season is a challenge, but it is considered a high priority.
Due to the extreme firefighting conditions in the Houston summer climate, we have taken certain heat stress prevention actions during the summer months, including staffing a second rehabilitation unit, and encouraging Incident Commanders to call for additional resources early in the incident to ensure proper rotation of crews.
We are working with City of Houston Fleet services who has contracted with 2 outside vendors in addition to the City Maintenance facility and are working evenings and weekends to make AC repairs as parts become available and keep up with service demand.
In addition, an aggressive vehicle replacement strategy has been implemented in the last two years. During this administration the FY capital budget was increased to $10,800,000.00 from $5,535,838.
On the heavy apparatus side we have purchased and received 18 engines, 2 Ladder Trucks, and 1 tower apparatus since July of 2018.
In the same time period we have purchased 24 Ambulances as well as the following
10 Emergency/Rescue Support Unitsequipped with the following:
· Ford F250 4×4 Crew Cab
· Portable bumper mounted winch
· Camper top with a slide out tray
· Airpak/air bottle storage
· Vehicle is used to transport personnel and to tow rescue/evacuation boats
7 Incident Command Vehicles
Used by District Chiefs at incident requiring a command presence with high degree of personnel accountability.
These are steps in the right direction as we work to address years of inattention to fire apparatus replacement. Although the number of heat related injuries has declined from 62 incidents in FY18 to 33 in FY19, we acknowledge that any heat related emergency to our personnel and any air conditioning unit not working while in an extreme heat advisory is one too many.
Fire Chief – City of Houston