Firefighters Union Blasts Mayor's Enforcement Order

The Houston firefighters union issued a strong response to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's order to enforce occupancy limits on bars and restaurants. Gov. Greg Abbott allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen last week at a maximum of 25-percent capacity to prevent spread of COVID-19, while restaurants are now allowed to operate at 50-percent capacity. Turner initially said he would not waste city resources to enforce the governor's order, insisting it was the state's responsibility. But Turner reversed that stance Sunday, announcing he will order fire marshals and inspectors to crack down on businesses operating above capacity, and issue citations or order closures if necessary. The mayor says he changed his mind after seeing social media photos and receiving reports of crowded bars around Houston this weekend.

Shortly, after the mayor's announcement, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Patrick M. "Marty" Lancton released the following statement:

“Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s slow and chaotic response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The HPFFA does not support the mayor’s political flip-flop directing HFD inspectors and arson investigators to enforce the state-ordered 25-percent occupancy capacity restriction on Houston businesses.

“The mayor’s ill-conceived directive came without public health guidance or an order from the fire chief clarifying how inspectors and investigators in the field should respond when they confront understandably irate business owners, managers and customers. Based on recent incidents, we have no reason to believe the mayor will back up city employees forced into this impossible situation.

“As with the city’s failed Hurricane Harvey response, the mayor did next to nothing to fortify HFD operations at the onset of the pandemic response. As firefighters and paramedics faced thousands of line-of duty COVID-19 exposures and hundreds of quarantines, the Turner Administration was largely unprepared. Today’s decision by the mayor reflects his continuing unwillingness to be fully informed on public safety issues.

“Whether the mayor’s decision today is another move in his intensifying feud with the governor, or something else, is for others to decide. In the meantime, HFD inspectors and arson investigators should not be made to be political enforcers for the mayor. We’re proud as firefighters, EMTs and paramedics to be on the front lines of the pandemic response in Houston. We just believe the mayor should give out masks, not citations.”

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