Houston Firefighters Union members approve ‘no confidence’ measure against HFD chief

Houston Firefighters Union members approved a “no confidence” measure brought against Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña.

According to HPFFA, 3,018 Houston firefighters signed the resolution rejecting the leadership of Chief Peña.

“This historic vote reflects the hope of Houston firefighters that our fire department can be improved despite the loss of confidence in the fire chief. More than 3,000 firefighters made efforts to go to the Association offices to vote on this resolution. Like the 97 district chiefs that initiated this vote, they believe this vote became necessary because of failed leadership of HFD,” HPFFA President Patrick “Marty” Lancton said in a statement.

RELATED: More than 90 HFD district chiefs call for ‘no confidence’ vote on Chief Peña, HPFFA says

HPFFA says the 11-point no-confidence resolution addresses a wide range of issues in the fire department including underfunding and cutting of the HFD budget, a decline of the HFD fleet and facilities, increasing response times and high firefighter cancer rates.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released this statement on Monday:

“Chief Sam Pena is a person of integrity and a strong leader for the Houston Fire Department.

“Last month, he secured more than $3 million in grant funding to install health and safety equipment in 30 stations to protect firefighters from cancer related hazards. He also recently announced the completion of training for an 80-person Water Strike Team to focus on water-rescue missions. Since Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Fire Department has doubled its water-rescue resources. The department has purchased and received dozens of new boats and vehicles, which will save  lives and allow the department to be more effective. 

“As I said last month when the Houston fire union announced its intentions to hold a vote of no confidence in Chief Pena, he is doing a great job for the Houston Fire Department and an excellent job for the City of Houston.

“What the union is doing is 100 percent political and I am certain that the public will see it for what it is.”

Fire Chief Sam Peña released the following statement Monday:

“I am always willing to be held accountable as long as it is fair and based on facts.  The fact is that we have accomplished more to improve conditions in just 2-1/2 years since I arrived here than had been done in the last 20 years prior to my arrival.
Firefighters, all of us, care about the same things and the facts show we have made great strides in addressing these issues with support from both Mayor Turner and City Council. The concerns raised give me a greater sense of urgency to make sure our firefighters are aware of how I am supporting the great work they are doing as evidenced by the following: 

  • Combined investment of over $31 million in the last 3 years for fire truck replacements, compared to $15 million in the previous 3 years
  • Combined investment of over $2 million in the last 2 years for flood response equipment and training, as compared to $100,000, in training only, over the previous 3 years
  • Numerous other accomplishments (see attached fact sheet)

Cancer is not just a Houston problem. It is an issue fire departments are dealing with, nationwide. As a fire chief, I was shocked when I arrived in Houston to realize that our fire stations had zero basic cancer prevention equipment. I am pleased that we have been able to move aggressively in the last two years on the following cancer prevention initiatives. 

  • 17 Fire stations have been equipped with vehicle exhaust removal systems ($774,000 Grant & Match investment)
  • 30 additional Fire Stations will be equipped with vehicle exhaust removal systems by the end of this fiscal year ($1.8M Grant & Match investment), the results of a two-year process to assess, plan, gain approval and purchase systems
  • 30 Fire Stations have been equipped with a commercial Personal Protective Gear washer ($300,000 investment)
  • 26 additional fire stations will be equipped with a commercial Personal Protective Gear washer by the end of this fiscal year ($260,000 investment), again the result of many months of focused work to ensure our firefighters’ needs are met
  • Distributing a 2nd set of Protective Hoods to emergency operations personnel ($560,000 investment), another important part of an overall plan
  • Numerous other initiatives (see attached fact sheet) designed to impact firefighters’ ability to do their jobs, protect them in high-risk situations and improve our performance as a department, which had been affected by the lower levels of investment by previous administrations.

My focus is now, and always has been and will be, on the safety and wellbeing of the public and our firefighters, and I remain dedicated to continue my work for the benefit of both. Ask any fire chief in any major city in the nation and you will hear that there is always more work and investment needed to keep a fire department’s fleet, technology and skills current.

I do know this: it will take all of us working together to resolve the challenges we face. We cannot afford to fight each other. We must focus on fighting fires and floods, and for the resources needed. In Houston, in the past two years, as the numbers bear out, we have been fortunate to receive increased investment for the many requests I’ve made to our city’s leadership on behalf of our department.” Sam Peña, Houston Fire Chief.