Lubbock city leaders have questions and concerns, a day after learning the Lubbock Fire Department was put on probation by the state nine months ago. The reasons are enclosed in a 86 page report from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.
One year ago, complaints from a Lubbock firefighter led the commission to conduct a surprise inspection of Lubbock's fire training facility. They found firefighter's were using equipment during training that was inadequate.
Since then all the equipment since has been fixed or replaced, and Fire Chief Steve Hailey says in hindsight he should have told city leaders about their probationary status. "In retrospect I should have communicated the issue to city council and senior management, but again that decision lays squarely on my shoulders and I'll bear the consequences of that decision."
When asked why he thought Hailey didn't tell him, Mayor Marc McDougal responds, "I don't know. I can't answer that until I talk to him but that's a question council is going to have."
Chief Hailey's answer is simple. He didn't tell city leaders the fire department was placed on probation by the TCFP because he didn't think it was necessary. Hailey says, "I felt like this particular issue, once brought to my attention, was handled responsibly and we took care of the problem and nobody was put at risk."
Candidate for City Council, Dan Burns, questions why it took an inspection to get outdated face masks, helmets and other live fire training equipment replaced. Burns was criticized by some two weeks ago over a campaign mail-out that made accusations Lubbock fire fighters were being forced to use unsafe equipment.
At a press conference Friday morning, Burns handed out copies of the TCFP's report and defended his stance, saying, "I am here today to defend my integrity and provide information to the citizens of Lubbock I feel they have the right to know."
On page two of the inspection report, it reads, "Concern: Have there been any injuries reported due to the training received in the simulator? Finding: Yes. Two minor injuries have occurred and those reports are attached to this report." Hailey addresses the issue saying, "During the last round of training, there were two minor injuries, neither of which had to do with equipment failure."
The Lubbock Fire Department was inspected again on February 10th of this year. They received a clean bill of health on that inspection and were even commended for their commitment to safety. Council candidate Dan Burns even said today the citizens of Lubbock are not in any danger.
One of his opponents, Phyllis Jones, spoke with us on the phone. She says Burns is making a mountain out of a molehill and he's making claims based on "old, erroneous information."
Chief Hailey says, complaints about equipment were never brought to his attention before the surprise inspection last summer.