HOUSTON - During Hurricane Harvey, many people stranded in flood waters were rescued by Good Samaritans.
The Houston Fire Department was out there, but with just a handful of boats, there was only so much it could do.
Now Fire Chief Samuel Peña wants to change that.
Pushing along one of their six water rescue boats, a group of firefighters were trying to find dry land for a man flooded from his home during Hurricane Harvey.
It was a job that had to be done knowing lives were in the balance.
It’s flooded before and probably will again, but with 16 boats and only one high-water vehicle, the next time another Harvey hits Houston, the Houston Fire Department wants to make sure it’s ready.
“In many respects, I think it’s safe to say the people of Houston saved the people of Houston," said District J Council Member Mike Laster.
And first responders did what they could with what they had.
“Flooding incidents are becoming very commonplace in our community," Peña said.
So through a slideshow presentation, graphs and projections, Chief Peña explains what he needs.
“What I need us to do is allocate the appropriate resources to replace our aging fleet," Peña said.
When it comes to fire, Peña is proposing a yearly investment of $10.8 million, replacing nine engines, four aerial ladder trucks and 16 ambulances a year, plus maintenance.
When it comes to water, he’s just asking to have more, adding four rescue boats, 10 evacuation boats and seven high-water vehicles, plus rescue training for hundreds of firefighters.
That life-saving investment totals to about $2 million.
“I appreciate you telling us what it takes to get back to first class," said Council Member Jack Christie.
With council’s support, he says it’s a proposal the city has no choice but to say yes to.
“No municipality is ever going to have all of the resources to handle a catastrophic event like Harvey, but we should really be planning, preparing and staffing for the expected risk," Peña said.
The question now is where will this money come from. There is a $500 million Municipal Bond that will be voted on in November. If approved, most will come from that. If not, Chief Peña says he will head back to council to ask for another solution.
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