ABC13 tours Kingwood fire station where sewer, mold issues illuminate facility in disrepair

Pooja Lodhia Image
Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Kingwood fire stations falling into disrepair: 'Just a fact of life'
ABC13 toured Kingwood Fire Station 101, where HFD crews are on standby, to see the repairs that firefighters are calling on.

KINGWOOD, Texas (KTRK) -- When floods ravaged Kingwood this month, our first responders were rescuing families, saving animals, and kept our communities safe.

But Eyewitness News just toured where the community's bravest slept.

Patches now cover spots where rainwater fell onto old mattresses.

"In the dorm, they had to put plywood down so the raccoons couldn't come in and sleep with the guys," Sr. Capt. Gabriel Luke from the Houston Fire Department said.

ABC13 visited Station 101 in Kingwood.

"We have sewage issues. I know you saw the portable water we have. Well, one of the residents actually got us water because we can't drink the water here," Luke said.

Station 101 was once for volunteer firefighters. When Houston annexed Kingwood in 1996, full-time Houston firefighters took over. But the facilities, in some cases, remained the same.

"These stations were not built 30-plus years ago with the intent of having people here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," District Chief Christopher McAllister with HFD said.

The timing of ABC13's tour is undoubtedly not a coincidence.

Former Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was never able to reach a contract agreement with the city's firefighters union, which left crewmembers without raises for years and stalled the department's recruitment and retention efforts.

Now, Houston has a new mayor. John Whitmire was elected after an endorsement from the union.

Whitmire announced a settlement that includes firefighter backpay and raises that will cost taxpayers about $1.5 billion and take 25 to 30 years to pay off.

But Whitmire has struggled to gain support for the costly deal and has yet to say how he'd fund it.

"What we've got to do is find the resources. Whatever it takes," the mayor told ABC13. "It's a darn shame that after first responders saved people's lives - 30-plus rescues - we've got elected officials on Monday criticizing the proposed package for their benefits."

"We are 500 firefighters short in the Houston Fire Department," Patrick "Marty" Lancton, the Houston Professional Firefighters Association president, said. "That's 500 firefighters less than what we had in 2010, and we're running nearly double, twice as many calls as today."

These political battles affect your tax dollars and, ultimately, our community's safeguards.

"You get used to it. You get used to the mold under the sink," Luke said. "You get used to the sink not draining and having you pay for it. You get used to it. It becomes just a fact of life."

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