HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County fire marshal is defending her department in response to questions raised in the final report from the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.
The task force released the report on Tuesday, with "recommendations and strategies to ensure the safety of concertgoers" in Texas, according to Gov. Greg Abbott. The group was created in response to the Astroworld Festival where 10 people died in 2021 after getting caught in the crowd surge.
Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen issued a statement about the report's findings on permits. She said the statutes mentioned in the findings "simply do not apply to the Astroworld event."
Under Finding 2 of the report, the task force named two statutes with permit requirements: the Mass Gathering Permit (Ch. 751 of the Texas Health and Safety Code) and the Outdoor Music Festival Permit (Ch. 2104 of the Texas Occupations Code).
The task force stated that Harris County had jurisdiction of Astroworld permitting requirements while the City of Houston was responsible for event incidents.
In a discussion about Astroworld, the report reads that there was no occupancy load for the event, which is usually determined by the fire department.
"A consistent permitting process could have helped established jurisdiction and authority over ultimate event shutdown in the face of a life-threatening incident," wrote the task force.
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Christiansen said the Mass Gathering Permit applies to events outside the city limits of a municipality. She also said the Music Festival Permit is for performances outside the boundaries of a city.
Her statement includes a link to the Interlock Agreement between Harris County and the City of Houston. In the agreement, Harris County is not allowed to inspect NRG Park Property which is where Astroworld was held. That falls under the responsibility of the City of Houston.
"The fact the Astroworld event occurred within the City of Houston along with the MOU between Harris County and the City of Houston clearly shows Harris County lacked any jurisdiction for permitting the Astroworld event," she said.
The Interlock Agreement was signed in 2018 and is renewed automatically every year unless either side decides to end it.
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