HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Mayor Sylvester Turner counterpunched critics Wednesday saying the City of Houston is replacing worn out firefighting units at a record pace.
But with nearly one in five Houston firefighting vehicles currently without functioning AC, concern and criticism aimed at Turner continued.
"It is not a joke that our men and women have to get in apparatus that are 100, 107, 113 degrees before their gear is put on," said Marty Lancton, President of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association.
"Many occasions, just in the recent past months, there have been reports of firefighters being taken to the hospital. We have to make sure we are protecting all of our employees," said Council Member Brenda Stardig.
"Every city employee should not be compared to what firefighters are going through in this heat wearing 50 to 75 pounds of equipment, Mayor. It is not right," said Council Member and mayoral candidate Dwight Boykins.
Today the Mayor pushed back hard, citing what he called an "aggressive" investment that's fully replaced a third of the firefighting fleet.
"We have a total of 135 new units that have been purchased since I've been Mayor at a cost of $33 million dollars. These are new trucks, new," said Turner.
The Mayor went on to blame breakdowns, A/C and otherwise, on over use in a deployment system that he believes needs changing.
"I'm saying it makes no sense to send pumper trucks and ladder trucks on an EMS call when 88 percent of your calls are EMS related and then you are wondering why the equipment is failing. Well, the equipment is failing, because we are using it in an inefficient fashion," said Turner.
Turner flatly denied reports that he's seeking to achieve savings by "privatizing" portions of the fire department.
"I'm not talking about privatization," said Turner.
The firefighters union chief told a different story.
"The last this Mayor and administration gave to us was that they were wanting to privatize and civilianize this fire department and EMS and that's not going to happen," said Lancton.