Houston Mayor Annise Parker speaks out on HFD budget battle


For the first time since seven ambulances were idled last Saturday. The Houston fire department is at full staff today, with zero brownouts, a slight reprieve from a week of painful budget battles that show no signs of ending.

"There is no doubt if we had to park a significant number of fire apparatus, it could have an impact on public safety," said Mayor Parker.

There is still no agreement on out to bridge the $8.5 million overtime budget hole firefighters who came to city council say. The city should have allotted the fire department a bigger budget, especially for a growing city.

"When you have less employees work for the fire department now in 2014 than you did in 2013, you can't tell me that you didn't look at that bill and see that wouldn't go up," said Houston firefighter Roy Cormier.

So for today, there are no brownouts in the city. If more firefighters take time off, the original seven ambulance units could be idled again. If the situation gets worse, the phase one of a full scale brownout would be implemented which could affect up to eight new fire stations and dozens of personnel.

Houstonians are naturally worried.

"I don't think they should idle fire trucks but I think they should find other ways they can find the money," said firefighter Victor Rey.

Some are sympathetic to the challenge of having to balance a $2 billion budget.

"It often seems like government entities struggle with fiscal responsibilities in ways households and business can't do sometimes," said Houston resident Mark Dili.

As both sides continue to struggle, Mayor Parker says long term, with a fire department that runs 85 percent ambulance calls; a more fundamental change is needed in the fire ranks.

"We still have to have a functioning active fire department but how we allocate those resources changes over time, but the fire department structure has not changed with those changes," said Mayor Parker.

Eyewitness News spoke with Fire Chief Gary Garrison and he says he is hopeful that nothing will need to be done this weekend, no brownouts, and that they will reevaluate the situation on Monday.

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