Houstonians’ safety is being compromised every day by a fire fleet so broken neighborhood fire stations are often empty or unable to respond to calls for help.
Now, for the first time, you can see how your neighborhood fire station is being harmed.
Dolcefino Consulting has spent months analyzing thousands of individual pieces of data to prove how many hours fire stations are left empty or disabled. We now release this report, State of Emergency, the cost of a broken fire fleet, as a gift to Houston taxpayers and a warning to the Mayor.
Dolcefino Consulting began looking into the state of the Houston Fire Department as we watched the nightly news reports of broken fire equipment. The idea that we are sending firefighters to save lives with aging equipment and broken air conditioning systems is unacceptable, especially in the heat of the summer.
“We were shocked by the true magnitude of this crisis, and it is a crisis,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “When Houstonians drive by their fire station and see it empty they assume the firefighters are out saving lives. This investigation proves that it may simply be the truck is broken and missing. Even if the truck is in the station, it may be unable to fight a fire.”
Over the last two years, Houston Fire Department data reveals first line Houston fire engines have been missing or unable to respond to fires a total of 21,000 hours, a staggering cost to response time when seconds matter.
Engine 55 in District D is located at 11212 Cullen Blvd in south Houston. Engine 55 had 168 breakdown events in the two-year period, with a truck out for more than 400 hours.
“What should also scare Houstonians is that the Fire Department fleet management didn’t even know this. They don’t even track the hours fire stations were left empty until a backup reserve truck could arrive to help. If their records are accurate, some stations may have been left empty for days,” says Dolcefino. “How do you run a fleet management department and not know this?”
Fire Department records provided to Dolcefino Consulting show Station 104 had an engine out of service for nearly 8 days in one incident. Station 29 had a ladder out for 10 and a half days during one event.
Fleet Management records show that when the day begins, sometimes more than 15 percent of the first line Houston fire trucks are in the shop. On some days, more than 20 of the 100 first line engines and ladders are broken.
Dolcefino Consulting has taken the raw data and created a database, so you can now see the truth about the fire truck in your neighborhood, by fire station and by council district.
“Every single city councilmember should read this document and what it means for the safety of their residents. It is time to put the name calling aside and get these heroes the equipment and the pay they deserve, says Dolcefino.”
The broken fleet is costing precious seconds when seconds count.
One example was an apartment fire on January 20, 2018. Fire Engine 10 started smoking just as it left the fire station. It could not respond. It took four and a half hours for a reserve truck to arrive at the station. It is one of many incidents that Houston firefighters are now making public on social media. Instead of acting to fix this emergency, critical firefighters are being investigated.
“If you call for help and your neighborhood fire truck can’t respond, no one can tell you it doesn’t affect the response time,” says Dolcefino. “It is incredibly sad that the response from the fire official in charge of emergency response, Executive Assistant Fire Chief Isaac Garcia, is to try to silence the men and women we count on to save us in an emergency who are begging for help.”
The June 21 memo from Garcia to all employees says that no member of the HFD should be speaking to the media.
The difficulty in analyzing this data exposes another problem. Broken Houston fire trucks go to the same centralized mechanic shop as every other city truck. That should end. We need specialized repairmen for life saving equipment. The current system requires the Houston Fire Department fleet management to be at the mercy of another city department. There is too much bureaucracy.
Where can you see how your neighborhood fire truck fared? How many hours was your fire station left empty or disabled because of an aging fleet?
Click here for the State of Emergency: The Cost of a Broken Houston Fire Fleet site. You can download or view the full report and the supporting documents. We have fleet reports from the HFD as well as raw data that can be viewed for specific breakdowns on any date in 2016 and 2017.
The final analysis documents explain the size of the problem in a form that is easy to understand.
If you have tips showing how this State of Emergency affected the call for help to your home, you can contact us on Dolcefino.com.
“We offer our help to the Mayor and City Council to discuss this investigation at length if it helps them fix this problem before someone gets hurt or dies because of a broken fire truck. We all want to know the help will come fast, and from first responders who are respected for the lifesaving work they do,” says Dolcefino. “It is time to treat this as a State of Emergency.”