NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
IRVING — Irving Fire Department Chief Mario Molina was on the hot seat at City Hall on Wednesday.
Council members wanted to know whether the performance of the city's fire department as glowing as Molina says, or if it is really dangerously deceptive, as some firefighters claim.
The chief's declaration was made in a radio transmission on July 27 last year.
Crews fighting an apartment fire in Irving had to be warned. The building was a loss, and it was time to get out.
In a News 8 Investigates report that aired on Tuesday night, Irving firefighters at the scene openly wondered if the building could have been saved if an additional person had been assigned to each truck — and if the Irving Fire Department hadn't taken the biggest budget hit of any city department in the past two years.
Appearing before Council members on Wednesday, Chief Molina defended his budget. "The cardiac survival continues to grow," he said. "Property loss due to fire has decreased by 47 percent. The response time is 15 percent faster than our goal."
But it is that faster response time that continues to confound firefighters and some on the City Council.
Irving fire engines normally carry three-person crews; the national standard to fight a fire is four.
Factor in the arrival of a fourth firefighter on the scene, and the response time drops to an average of more than 5 minutes.
"In my way of thinking, the clock on the response times shouldn't stop when the first apparatus gets there if there's only three men on it," Council member Dennis Webb said.
Once other Council members started drilling for specifics, Chief Molina became less sure.
"Thirty percent more calls?" asked Mayor Beth Van Duyne. "I don't know what that means. Thirty percent more than what?"
Council member Lewis Patrick wanted to know whether the figures Chief Molina quoted are "apples to apples with all other fire departments?"
"I can't answer that question," the chief responded.
More than 50 Irving firefighters crowded the Council meeting room on Wednesday; so many that most had to move outside into a larger space to avoid potential violation of fire codes.
Following the chief's presentation, firefighters felt encouraged.
"I'm glad we are having a public discussion and we are looking at these things," Capt. Rick Sanderson said. "I think we should have looked at them a long time ago."
Chief Molina promises to have answers in the coming weeks.
Firefighters hope to see real changes — including the addition of manpower to each truck — soon after.