Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña’s efforts to improve the health and safety of firefighters is in high gear with the installation of nine additional diesel exhaust removal systems in Houston fire stations. Due to the extremely busy emergency response system in Houston firefighters are exposed to vehicle fumes on a routine basis. When these vehicles are started, the exhaust infiltrates the living and sleeping areas of the fire stations that are staffed around the clock. Before Chief Pena implemented a department-wide health and safety initiative only one fire station out of 94 was equipped with exhaust removal systems . That number is now up to ten and includes stations 7,8, 9,16,21,25,51,28,60, and 31. Six more installations have been scheduled for stations 39,46,56,58,68, and 73. These are the busiest fire stations in the city and are responsible for deployment to a quarter of HFD’s emergencies. Approximately 600 of HFD’s firefighters are assigned to these stations. These systems will provide a healthier and safer work environment for Houston’s busiest first responders.
In 2017, the HFD applied to FEMA for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to begin modernizing and installing vehicle exhaust capture and removal systems. In July of 2018, the HFD was awarded the grant in the amount of $703,914, with a grant match obligation of $70,391. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston City Council approved the matching funds.
There are still 78 fire stations that remain in need of vehicle exhaust systems. With an average cost of $80,000 per station, the retrofitting of the remaining fire stations will cost approximately $6,240,000.
“We are making great progress with the installation of a vehicle exhaust systems in our fire stations. But we still have work to do. Installing this equipment in each of our 94 fire stations is essential to creating a healthy and safe working environment for our employees. I appreciate the Mayor and the Houston City Council’s commitment and continued support of this initiative,” Sam Peña, Fire Chief.
The HFD will continue to pursue grant opportunities in forwarding its health and safety initiative with the plan to modernize 15 additional fire stations in calendar year 2019-2020.