Houston Fire Department’s Harvey staffing criticized

Neighorhood flooded around Buffalo Bayou, along Wilcrest and Indian Creek. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
Neighorhood flooded around Buffalo Bayou, along Wilcrest and Indian Creek. (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

HOUSTON (AP) — Thousands of Houston firefighters were told to stay home at the height of Harvey’s flooding.

Marty Lancton, president of the Houston firefighters union, said through tears in an interview Friday with television station KHOU that the department could have done more during the storm.

He says that on Sunday, Aug. 27, as fast-rushing water chased people onto their rooftops, about 3,000 firefighters were instructed not to report to work, an agonizing order for many eager to assist with rescues.

The decision left 900 firefighters responsible for 650 square miles of Houston, and many worked two or three days without a break.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena acknowledges that three-quarters of the force was asked not to report, but says that the department was fully staffed.