Fire Away

Fire Away

Sprinkle it on: Your story about the Houston Fire Department was very good ["Riding Short," by John Suval, January 10]! There is one thing you left out: You did not mention that the Four-Leaf Towers did not have automatic fire sprinklers installed in the building.

If it had been sprinkled like all high-rise buildings are supposed to be, Mr. Jahnke would still be alive today. The media never reports about the fires that happen and are put out by fire sprinklers. I see them work all the time.

The City of Houston needs to pass a law to retrofit all high-rise buildings that don't have sprinklers. You can go to to view some of the states that require all high-rise buildings to have sprinklers. Maybe one of these days it will be required that all buildings and homes have fire sprinklers. Then the HFD could have two men per truck.

Dub Oldham

The truth: I am a Houston fire inspector, currently a class officer at the Houston Fire Academy.

Thank you for two things:

No. 1, thank you for all the nice things you said about brother Jay Jahnke and his family. Jay was a friend of mine, and he will be sorely missed.

No. 2, thank you for reporting correctly on the problems the Houston Fire Department is experiencing. It is refreshing to see truthful articles about the department; it doesn't happen that often. The staffing shortage is definitely the big issue. You hit the nail right on the head.

Obviously you did your homework before writing that article, and I applaud you for that. I've been in the fire department for 26 years, and very seldom does a reporter accurately report our situations.

Ray Fleming

Unprepared for 9/11: Great article. I am a Houston firefighter with almost 19 years' service. Your article will go a long way in letting the public know what kind of people serve them every day. The scenario not addressed was what if Houston needed the same large-scale evacuation that was required September 11.

NYFD used six-man truck crews and five-man pumper crews to clear the World Trade Center. With 30 percent more manpower, at least that same percentage of citizens was saved. The fire department is the only game in town equipped and trained to deal with the movement of people to safety from hazardous situations. With only two fire stations in the immediate downtown area and extended response times becoming more common, the odds of a large-scale loss of life becomes an inevitable fact.

We signed a contact with the city years ago. We accepted less than time and a half in a good-faith effort to boost staffing. Mayor Brown makes a political statement every day he ignores the most basic safety issues. When former mayor Lanier had an emergency several months ago, Brown ordered a squad unit to transport Lanier to the hospital. This was a clear violation of not only state laws but also common sense. Do you think your loved ones will receive the same level of care?

It is a fact the fire department can't generate revenue like the police department. The majority of ambulance calls are for people with limited incomes. We don't do credit checks when people need help. This city has the most lenient building codes in the country. This makes for a more profitable building industry at the cost of lives and property lost. The Woodway Square fire is a prime example of this mind-set.

Tom Lauersdorf

Family ties: Thank you for your recent feature regarding our struggles in the Houston Fire Department!

Thank you for caring enough about what we do to tell it the way it really is! Most of all, I would like to thank you for the regard and honor you expressed for Jay Jahnke, his wife and children and his entire family during one of the greatest trials of their lives.

Larry McClure

Labor Pains

National shock: I just wanted to say thank you for an article that raises some very valid points [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, January 17]. As a former member of AFGE Local 3966, which served the U.S. attorney's office in Houston, I was distressed by the president's order and have yet to understand exactly what national security issues are at stake.

I think your article was well written and clear, and captures the shock of union members nationwide. Thanks for even caring about us.

Catrina Johnson

Taking the Rains

Jack is beyond reproach: In your Insider article on the recent mayoral election, you attributed a quote to Jack Rains and cited an anonymous source ["You Don't Know Jack," by Tim Fleck, December 27].

I was in the meeting between the Bell and Sanchez campaign leaders. Rains, in answer to a question as to what role he would play in any Sanchez administration, explained he had no plan or desire to be a part of the administration. He went on to point out that he and Joe B. Allen, Bell's campaign chair who was also present, would get back to their jobs and that the staffers of both campaigns would be candidates for any Sanchez administration. It was clear to me that the statement was made to indicate that Rains and Allen planned to redirect their efforts from politics back to the private sector. Jack in no way implied that he and Allen planned to capitalize on their position in this campaign.

In fact, Jack does not make his living working with the city or county, and has never committed any act that would support such a conclusion. On the contrary, over a career spanning nearly 40 years he has always exhibited the highest ethics.

While I do not always agree with Jack's politics, and we were on opposite sides in the mayoral race, I respect him as a dedicated citizen who has exhibited the highest ethical standards in every dealing of which I have knowledge.

I have great respect for Tim Fleck. I do not respect an anonymous source. Hatchet jobs like the one attempted by this anonymous source are a reflection of the source and not of the victim.

Gardner Parker


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