Fire Chief Samuel Peña’s Statement About Possible Houston Fire Department Staffing Changes

Ahead of a special called city council meeting to discuss last Wednesday’s 10-6 vote to layoff firefighters to help balance the City of Houston budget, Fire Chief Samuel Peña released the following information.

“In the months before the April 24 City Council vote amending Ordinance 2017-0462, I personally briefed most of council members on the anticipated affect Proposition B would have if the entire financial obligation must be absorbed in one year. In those briefings, I spoke extensively about the reduction of $20 to $25M in the Fire Department budget, a reduction in headcount, restructuring, moving from a 4 platoon to a 3 platoon shift schedule to maximize apparatus staffing with a lower headcount, the reduction in rank positions that would result from eliminating one platoon shift, and the preference for the multi-year phase-in approach to any changes.

“Due to the city’s interpretation of the language in Proposition B, approximately 70% of those that would demote will receive an increase in pay. Additionally, Mayor Turner has stated that no HFD employee demoted as a result of the reduction in force will take a reduction in pay.

“During my presentation to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, I did mention that there would be reductions in emergency operations and in support division personnel.

“The number of proposed reductions in each rank and overall number of layoffs was presented and clearly listed in the RCA document for ordinance no. 2017-0462. Additionally, I personally briefed the item at agenda briefing held at the City Hall Annex on April 15th at 2 p.m. Staff from every council district was present and questions about the demotions and process were asked and answered.

“On April 24, council voted on the ordinance resulting in a proposed layoff of 220 firefighter and a reduction of the 251 promoted listed on the document.”