HOUSTON (FOX 26) - During one of the hottest weeks of the summer, the firefighters union says more than two dozen Houston firetrucks have broken air conditioning units. In a letter addressed to the city of Houston Monday, the union is now calling on Mayor Sylvester Turner to fix the problem.
Firefighters Union President, Marty Lancton said this is a health and safety issue for firefighters as they have no other choice but to get inside these scorching hot trucks to do their job.
One of the trucks at Fire Station 19 has apparently not had functioning AC for the last 18 months.
"We're sending more firefighters to the hospital in this past month than we have in the previous months. That is not a joke," Lancton said.
Without Houston Firefighters already depleted from the scorching temperatures outside, Lancton said the union has received reports that more than 25 firetrucks across the city have broken air conditioning units. He said the temperatures inside some are racking in at over 100 degrees.
"It was about a 101 inside the cab. That's a very dangerous situation to put firefighters in and that's without their gear on. It's a little bit ironic to the firefighters that we're rightfully so telling the citizens they need to stay out of the heat and having cooling centers. But we're not even taking care of our own, who are going out in the heat taking care of these people that are experiencing heat related illnesses and issues," Lancton said.
Lancton criticized the city for not prioritizing the repairs after he said similar break downs happened last year. On average, Lancton said Houston firefighters respond to a thousand calls a day, regardless of whether or not the AC works.
"The fact that I'm hearing that it intermittently works-- I invite anybody to go over to the fire stations and live there for 24 hours while being prepared to respond to your emergencies," Lancton said.
In a statement, the Houston Fire Dept. responded:
"The health and safety of our firefighters is our primary concern. Maintaining functioning Air Conditioning on fire apparatus during the peak summer season is a challenge, but it is considered a high priority.
"Due to the extreme firefighting conditions in the Houston summer climate, we have taken certain heat stress prevention actions during the summer months, including staffing a second rehabilitation unit, and encouraging Incident Commanders to call for additional resources early in the incident to ensure proper rotation of crews.
"We are working with City of Houston Fleet services who has contracted with 2 outside vendors in addition to the City Maintenance facility and are working evenings and weekends to make AC repairs as parts become available and keep up with service demand. These are steps in the right direction as we work to address years of inattention to fire apparatus replacement. Although the number of heat related injuries has declined from 62 incidents in FY18 to 33 in FY19, we acknowledge that any heat related emergency to our personnel and any air conditioning unit not working while in an extreme heat advisory is one too many."