Houston Fire Department requests $2M to improve high-water rescues

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HFD is asking for $2 million to improve high-water rescues. (KTRK)

After thousands of Houston firefighters were told to stay home as Hurricane Harvey rolled through, the department released a proposal to improve storm response.

In all, the fire department said in late August it rescued more than 7,000 people.

But not all who needed to be saved got rescued.

"No one. No one came on this street," Margaret Ratcliff said. "My next door neighbor's daughter is disabled. She had to push her in a basket."

Four feet of water poured into Ratcliff's northeast Houston home.

"We had to get out and I put the baby around my neck," Ratcliff said. "We just walked, and finally we saw policemen in big trucks."

Help might be on the way.

Fire Chief Sam Pena spoke before the public safety and homeland security council committee Tuesday and rolled out a plan to improve water rescues.

He said the department needs to spend $1,734,500 on equipment, including boats, jet skis and high-water vehicles.

Chief Pena also said they need to spend $330,500 training firefighters.

"Harvey was a wakeup call," Houston city council member Brenda Stardig said. "Harvey was beating at our door. No one should've been shocked that it was coming. There are all sorts of things that occurred that we're going to be questioning."

The request comes after 3,000 firefighters were told to stay home as Harvey hit.

Chief Pena said training and new equipment will make things different.

"Adding more resources to the expanded demand and the risk in the community is what I will be requesting," Chief Pena said.

Meeting the demand is something Ratcliff likes to hear so she doesn't go it alone next time.

"It was scary," Ratcliff said. "I felt like I was going to drown. I was on my tip toes."

The plan will be presented to Mayor Sylvester Turner to decide whether to bring it to council. We're told he hasn't had a chance to review it.

He issued the following statement: "Since my first day as mayor it has been obvious that the Fire Department needs to obtain more rescue boats and high water vehicles, access more training and replace its aging vehicle fleet. The Police Department and Solid Waste Department likewise have had to get the job done with vehicles that are too old. Today Chief Pena painted a picture I know well. We are going to meet these needs as much as we can with the limited city revenues we have, hence the importance of the public safety bonds that the voters are asked to approve. This is just one of the steps we need to take to get us where we need to be."

If the fire department isn't able to get the money, firefighters say they're exploring other options, including community and business support.

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Related Topics:
houston floodwater rescuehurricane harveyhouston fire departmentsevere weatherflash floodingsearch and rescueHouston
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