Another City, Another Dispute Over Sexism And Racism

After a summer of what seemed like a million racist and sexist offerings from the Houston Fire Department, it started to feel like our city had to have the worst department around. But that changed earlier this month when Channel 13 reported some "explosive new allegations" about racism and sexism, along with a cover-up, in the Texas City Fire Department.

Kelly Alcocer, a former fire marshal and captain in the Texas City department, told the news station that she was the target of attacks, including feces smeared on the commode in the woman's restroom, hateful messages spray painted on her mailbox, car tires slashed, flowers mailed to her house with threatening notes attached, and she even found a staple in the earbud of her MP3 headphones.

Hair Balls couldn't reach Alcocer, but we did speak with Tina Krenek, a lesbian firefighter for Texas City since 2005, and she told us that Alcocer's reports were wrong.

"I think it's just a disgruntled employee, and whether she resigned or was fired, it's just sour grapes," Krenek said.

Krenek said she wanted to talk to Hair Balls because the 70 or so firefighters in Texas City were shocked to see Alcocer's allegations pointed at the department. She also said women are sometimes at a disadvantage when fighting fires, because of strength and height issues like trying to pull hose off the top of a firetruck.

"Firetrucks are designed for big, tall men, not short women, but they always help us out," Krenek said. "There are multiple women in our department, and they don't have any problems."

Part of the Channel 13 report was about Melvin Williams, a diversity expert at UTMB-Galveston, who the fire department hired in 2005 to lead what Krenek called "cultural diversity training." On Channel 13, Williams described the meeting, saying it was full of animosity, causing him to leave the issue unresolved.

"That gentleman came in and called us all racists, bigots and sexists, and we just sat there kind of shocked," Krenek said. "Nobody made a peep, because if we did say something, we didn't want it to be taken the wrong way."

She wasn't sure if the meeting with Williams was part of the department's continuing education or if it was scheduled because of a complaint.

The assistant chief in Texas City told us that the department is keeping quiet about the whole ordeal, but if we hear anymore, we'll be sure to update.

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