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Houston Firefighters Reject Leadership Of HFD Chief Sam Peña

A resolution by members of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association criticizes Peña for underfunding the Fire Department. Mayor Turner says it’s a political move.

HFD Chief Samuel Peña emphasizes that improving fire safety inspections in Houston will entail using a new risk-based model and a modern records management system.
More than 3,000 members of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association support a resolution of no-confidence in HFD Chief Samuel Peña.

More than 3,000 of the city’s 4,000 firefighters have signed a no-confidence resolution against Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association announced Monday.

As News 88.7 reported on Sept. 3, the majority of district fire chiefs had called for a vote of no-confidence in the head of the Houston Fire Department.

Patrick ‘Marty’ Lancton, president of the firefighters union, stressed that as many as 97 district chiefs had requested the vote and added the union didn't promote the initiative, but responded to the request.

The resolution criticizes what it calls consistent underfunding and cutting of the fire department's budget and the continuing decline of HFD's fleet and facilities.

Additionally, the resolution calls out Peña for supporting a three-shift model that, according to the union, would hinder diversity and promotions of minority members within the Fire Department.

The union members also criticized Peña's role in the response to Hurricane Harvey. And they said he opposed a ballot initiative that would provide pay parity between Houston police officers and firefighters, an issue that has caused ongoing confrontation between Lancton and Mayor Sylvester Turner over the past year.

“This is a huge indication –not by the union, by the people who make up the union, the members, the Houston firefighters– that they are not in support,” Lancton told News 88.7.

Mayor Turner shot back in a written statement, calling the move 100% political.

“Chief Sam Pena is a person of integrity and a strong leader for the Houston Fire Department,” Turner said in the statement. “As I said last month when the Houston fire union announced its intentions to hold a vote of no confidence in Chief Pena, he is doing a great job for the Houston Fire Department and an excellent job for the City of Houston.”

The mayor highlighted that Peña has secured more than $3 million in grant funding to install health and safety equipment in 30 stations.

Turner also said the Fire Department has doubled its water-rescue resources since Hurricane Harvey.

Peña also sent out a statement. “The fact is that we have accomplished more to improve conditions in just two and a half years since I arrived here than had been done in the last 20 years prior to my arrival,” he said.

The fire chief listed several accomplishments under his leadership, including investing over $31 million in the last three years in fire truck replacements and installing vehicle exhaust removal systems in 17 fire stations.

“I do know this: it will take all of us working together to resolve the challenges we face,” Peña said at the end of his statement.

The firefighters union has endorsed Houston City Council Member Dwight Boykins in the race for mayor.