Six months after Harvey devastated Houston, city council members unanimously voted Wednesday to spend just over $2 million for flood rescue vehicles and equipment for the Houston Fire Department.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said the vote fulfills the requests HFD Chief Sam Peña made in October to the council’s Public Safety Committee.
“The problem that we’ve had in the past is that we haven’t had enough assets, period,” Turner said.
The mayor also said Council had already approved $300,000 to train firefighters on the new equipment, which is currently underway.
The vote came after council members hashed out concerns on training, the ability of fire stations to store the vehicles and the placement of assets.
“We need to make sure that they are strategically placed across the 644 square miles of this city,” said council member Brenda Stardig, Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
“It’s a good day,” said HFD Assistant Chief Ruy Lozano, after the vote. “It’s an opportunity to amp up our resources.”
Asst. Chief Lozano says this vote boosts the number of high water rescue vehicles from one to eight. He says HFD will station one in each quadrant of the city, as well as flood-prone areas like Meyerland and Greenspoint.
“There’s a lot that goes into where we place them,” Lozano said. “One of them is access to roadways. Another is facilities that can actually have the space to house ‘em.”
Also part of this deal: four rescue boats, ten evacuation boats, ten 4x4 pickups to get them into hard-to-reach areas, plus four jet skis and a drone for recon.
Lozano says that’s in addition to vehicles and gear donated by the community.
“We gotta get this before hurricane season,” Lozano said. “That’s our goal.”
Mayor Turner says it should take 90 to 120 days to get all of the assets in, though he adds the city already started the pre-ordering process because the deal was expected to pass.