Legal dispute leaves some Katy-area residents worried about fire protection

KATY, TX (KTRK) -- Since 1983, Ken Schaudt and his family have called Katy home and relied on fire services from West I-10 Volunteer Firefighters.

"We were struck by lightning. My wife had an accident," says Schaudt.

But right now if there is trouble at his home, there won't be any flashing lights and sirens coming a few blocks away from Station 3 on Westgreen Road.

"This is centrally located and close to the house," says Schaudt.

After a longstanding agreement with ESD 48, West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department is being taken over by the Emergency Services District. A court order approved the transition. Paid and volunteer firefighters were offered positions within the new district, but it's the assets that are parked right now. A judge's order won't allow the trucks to move within the district until a decision is made.

The Captain of the department says the firefighters who stayed have been told they could even be arrested for responding.

Captain Jose Ramirez said, "Right now you have reduced services, reduced staff and operating out of rented stations or hotel rooms. Longer response times. Our stations are strategically located."

The new ESD 48 firefighters are using borrowed trucks from departments in the area and staging at various locations in the district.

"I have strong concerns about their ability to go forward," Schaudt said.

Ira Coveler, the attorney for the district, says response times and services are not affected.

"Those fire trucks could have responded if West I-10 would have cooperated and they wouldn't so the district has made the decision to stage equipment all over the district territory so we can still maintain the same response time and same good service the residents have always expected," Coveler said.

Only a judge can make the next call to move the trucks.

A hearing is scheduled for Monday between the two sides.

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