Civilian Layoffs Inside the Houston Fire Department
May 12, 2011

The layoffs continued Thursday for city of Houston employees.   As of the close of business a total of 634 employees have received notice that their jobs are being eliminated.

Those notified on Thursday include 3 in the finance department, 99 in the Parks Department, 75 in the health department.

For the first time,  Houston Fire Chief  Terry Garrison  is confirming that pink slips are being passed out in his department.

So far the cuts impact 12 civilian employees.  Chief Garrison released this statement regarding the civilians who were laid off.

“In order to meet the need to reduce the size of the department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2012, the Houston Fire Department has begun staff reductions.   Layoff notifications have been given to some of our civilian staff members.
These personnel changes represent just over $1 million dollars in reduction of expenditures.
These members of our staff have served the city well.  It is a difficult day for all of us.
At this time, there have been no layoffs of classified personnel.  Work continues to find additional savings in hopes of avoiding this altogether.  A very important part of that involves our work with classified Labor through the collective bargaining process.   Both sides of the table are compelled to find solutions in order to meet the budget shortfalls. We all know that decreasing the number of firefighters could have a direct impact on our ability to deliver our service. And we all agree, that maintaining our level of service is most critical.”
 
Meanwhile, classified employees – firefighters – are scheduled to resume face to face collective bargaining with the city on Friday.
Earlier this week both sides worked to find a compromise that would balance saving the city money while allowing firefighters to keep their jobs.
 
 
 
 The city wants the firefighters to accept an interim 18-month contract with a significant number of concessions. One proposal calls for retired firefighters to receive their unused vacation payout over four years instead of in one lump sum when they leave the department.
 
However, the union wants some assurance that those concessions would be short-term and the firefighters would regain their benefits after the compromise contract expired. 
 
 
 
 

Can You Help Houston FireFighters Find An Arsonist?
March 10, 2011

 (CITY OF HOUSTON NEWS RELEASE)
The Houston Fire Department Seeks the Public’s Help in the Search for A Person of Interest for Arson Fires in Southwest Houston
 

Houston Fire Department arson investigators request the public’s help in seeking the person or people responsible for arson fires started at homes and apartments in southwest Houston.  Investigators have determined that a recent group of arson fires may be linked to the person or people responsible for a series fires that were reported last year.In early 2010, a string of fires occurring in southwest Houston appeared to be related.  During the course of investigation a video tape came to light that showed a man carrying a clear liquid and the ignition of a fire. Shortly after the release of the video, there were a few more fires, then for several months they appeared to stop. However, piecing together information from a sporadic group of fires that occurred around beginning in December and into this year, arson investigators believe the person(s) they were looking for in relation to the fires set in southwest Houston may responsible for the most recent string.

Investigators have no description of the suspect.  Investigators are pursuing leads. But they ask anyone who may have information to give Crimestoppers a call at 222-TIPS or call the Houston Arson Division at 713.865.9000. 

Links to video from suspicious fire in May 2010:

F_001853.wmv – Clip shows resident arriving at residence
F_001854.wmv – Clip shows suspect walking up to residence
F_001855.wmv – Clips shows flames from the fire

The list of locations believed to be related include the following addresses.

Date
Time Location
1/27/2010 1:47 AM 10918 Triola
2/18/2010 1:39 AM 11602 Moonmist
3/4/2010 3:48 AM 6102 Grandvale
3/8/2010 2:04 AM 3326 Meadway
3/19/2010 1:36 AM 11606 High Star Drive
4/9/2010 4:27 AM 4518 Wild Acres
4/14/2010 3:53 AM 3806 Kingston Vale Drive
5/1/2010 5:29 AM 13119 Wild Glenn
5/2/2010 4:21 AM 4419 Yupon Ridge
     
5/5/2010 1:17 AM 3441 Luton Park
5/16/2010 1:31 AM 4122 Yupon Ridge
5/19/2010 1:47 AM 3510 Meadway Drive
5/19/2010 3:11 AM 11685 Alief Clodine
5/20/2010 2:01 AM 12948 Wirevine Lane
5/20/2010 2:38 AM 7102 Longvine
6/9/2010 2:46 AM 9011 Rowan
6/15/2010 12:14 AM 11530 Herald Square
6/20/2010 5:00 AM 8503 Dashwood
6/22/2010 3:13 AM 9306 Sharpview
7/4/2010 0:00 8903 Roos
7/10/2010 2:15 PM 10402 Tennis Court
7/11/2010 11:16 AM 10310 Covey Court
12/7/2010 2:45 AM 6701 Neff
12/10/2010 3:26 AM 14414 Locke Lane
12/22/2010 3:12 AM 6701 Rowan
12/31/2010 1:20 PM 2235 Foreland
1/10/2011 Fire Dept. Not Called 6103 Lugary
2/24/2011 2:37 AM 8527 Leader
   

A Friday Shout-Out To Houston Firefighters
September 3, 2010

I’d like to give a special Friday shout out to all Houston firefighters today, but especially the men and women working at  Fire Station #8 located in downtown Houston. 

On Tuesday, I covered a news conference at that location.

But, all I could concentrate on was the delicious aroma  coming from the BBQ  grill outside of  the garage where the news conference was taking place. 

The firefighters, who work 24 hours shifts,  basically live, sleep and eat together at the fire station, so they always have someone who is the designated cook. 

On this particular day they were having BBQ chicken and ribs.  I never saw any of the side dishes 🙂

The news conference was an update for the media regarding the highrise fire that took place the night before on the 27th floor of the Chase Building.

As  Acting Chief Rick Flanagan and one of the arson investigators talked about water pressure, property damage and the ongoing investigation, some of the members of the media said their mouths were starting to water because the food smelled so good.

So a special thank you to the firefighters who, when not fighting fires and keeping our city safe, they are firing up the grill and enjoying some good grub!

Did Houston FireFighter Crack Under Pressure?
August 10, 2010

Controversial firefighter  Jane Draycott   was drinking at her daughter’s gravesite only hours  before she was arrested at a local Wal-Mart for allegedly shoplifting.

That’s according to  Draycott’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, who also told 2 On The Beat that Draycott simply “cracked from the pressure.”

On Monday evening,  Dracycott was arrested for allegedly walking out of  a Wal-Mart in northwest Harris County without paying for  a dvd player, two movies (Clash of  The Titans and Repomen) and a bag of ice.  The items total more than $200.

If  Draycott’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she is the same firefighter who claimed she found sexist graffiti and a defaced picture of  her deceased daughter hanging from her locker at fire station #54

The case was never solved and Draycott has returned to work at  station #54.

Many people have said privately and publicly that they believe Draycott made up the story or  is  somehow responsible for the graffiti found on her locker.  

But Draycott has not been charged with any wrongdoing. 

She is expected to make her first court appearance on August 17, 2010.

At that time we will hear more about the pressure she was facing that allegedly caused  her to “crack”  and attempt  to steal merchandise from the Wal-Mart.

Candidates For Houston Fire Chief About To Face The Heat
August 10, 2010

Multiple source, including elected officials and firefighters,  have told 2 On The Beat that Mayor Annise Parker and members of  her senior staff will begin interviewing candidates for the position of  Houston Fire Chief on Wednesday.

I asked the Mayor’s office and spokesperson Jessica Michan told me that Mayor Parker isn’t meeting with any of the candidates, but she didn’t tell me who would meet with those who are interested in leading the four thousand member department.

 I don’t know if the Mayor’s office is playing games or blatantly spinning the truth. I do know that several reliable sources and trustworthy individuals told me that the candidates will meet sometime Wednesday to discuss the Mayor’s vision for the department and their own qualifications and interest in the position.

Earlier this year Mayor Parker told the media that she hoped to name a new chief by the end of  August.

After hearing the news, I called Jeff Caynon, the President of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association #341.

He said that the men and women he represents are looking for someone who, “is level-headed, reasonable and who would be accessible to the rank and file.”

“At the end of the day it’s the Mayor’s decision,” Caynon said, “but we were promised that we could have some input.”

Best of luck to all of the candidates who are about to face the heat with critical meetings with Mayor Parker and/or members of her senior staff.

Houston Fire Chief Steps Down – Is Praised For His Work
January 19, 2010

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she accepted “with regret” the resignation of Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie.

In a news conference this morning Mayor Parker named 30 year HFD veteran and executive chief Rick Flanagan as the departments Acting Chief while she launches a nationwide search for a new leader.

Chief   Flanagan told reporters he is interested in the top job, but stressed that he is more concerned with addressing the issues plaguing the department. Flanagan praised the hardworking men and women of HFD and promised to work on their behalf.

After this morning’s stunning announcement that Houston Fire Chief Phil Boriskie  has stepped down, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association has released a statement praising him for his work.
Statement of Jeffrey Caynon

President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA)

January 19, 2010

“The men and women of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association wish Phil Boriskie well. He is rightly regarded by most Houston firefighters as one of the best chiefs in department history. Under his leadership, the department has improved training, response times and the delivery of emergency medical services (EMS).

“We had our professional differences, but Houston firefighters generally respect his character and his good intentions. He strived to balance the needs of the city with those of his firefighters. The truth is, Chief Boriskie was a victim of his good nature and management style, both of which left him vulnerable to political attack. For the past year, the opportunist politicians, extremist activists and disgruntled city employees who recklessly stereotyped local firefighters also treated the chief despicably.

“HFD is a model fire department in many respects and Chief Boriskie deserves his share of the credit. According to the 2009 citywide Citizens Survey, ‘the top three services in which phone respondents reported the highest satisfaction rating were all related to the HFD.’ Citizens and business owners benefit from lower insurance rates because we are the largest fire department in the United States with the top insurance industry fire protection rating. We have one of the nation’s highest cardiac arrest survival rates. Our respected EMS system has been a partner in numerous leading-edge medical studies. Our arson division has a case closure rate above the national average. And Houston firefighters are regularly recognized for raising more money for charity than any other department in the nation.

“We look forward to advising the city administration during the process of selecting the chief’s successor. As we have for decades, the HPFFA remains committed to improving workplace and labor conditions for local firefighters. We hope the mayor’s choice for fire chief maintains this commitment as well.”

 

Encouraging Young Women to Become FireFighters
January 19, 2010

A new program  could help increase the number of  women in the Houston Fire Department – even as HFD is dealing with accusations that is not a very welcoming place for women.

CampHoustonFire is a new program for young women in high school.  Once accepted into Camp Houston Fire,  they’ll get a hands on learning experience about the rigors and the rewards of   being a firefighter. 

While it could take years to increase the number of women in the Houston Fire Department, this program is a good start.

HFD is still dealing with the fallout from problems reported last year at station #54.  That’s when female firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes reported that they found racist and sexist graffiti scrawled on their lockers. A picture of Draycott’s deceased daughter was also defaced.

After several months, dozens of  interviews and a handful of  polygraphs, the Office of Inspector General still hasn’t released a report about its investigation into the incident.

There are hundreds of hard-working and professional men and women in the Houston Fire Department.  But,  as  long as questions remain unanswered, some will continue to view it as place where women aren’t fully accepted and  are subjected to a hostile work environment.

Houston FireFighters Wear Pink to Honor Victim
April 20, 2009

funeral-004funeral-005

Off duty and retired firefighters are honoring the memory of Leigh Boone.

funeral-002funeral-001

Boone was the 29 year old bicyclist who was crushed when a department ladder truck and pumper engine were  rushing  to the scene of what they believed was an emergency call.

Boone’s funeral was held Monday  afternoon at St. Martins Episcopal Church.  It was a service filled with both humor and heartache.

The firefighters are here on their own time to escort her casket and to form an honor wall around the casket.

They are also wearing pink ribbons over their badges in honor of Leigh. 

Friends say that Leigh loved the movie “Pretty in Pink” and that her favorite color was pink.

 After the service, a fire department bagpiper played as Leigh’s casket was carried out of the church one final  time. 

Meanwhile, I spoke with Houston attorney Jim Perdue who told me he as been retained by the Boone family. 

Purdue says no decision has been made about filing a lawsuit, he is simply helping the family stay on top of the crash investigations  being conducted by both the Harris County District Attorney’s office and the Houston Fire Department.