Opinion: The Abuse Of Dallas Firefighters Has To Stop

Dallas Fire-Rescue truck | Image by Dallas Fire-Rescue/Facebook

Would it surprise any of you Dallas taxpaying residents that calls normally handled by the police in other communities are being handled by Dallas Fire Rescue? These calls include welfare checks, 911 hang-ups, audible alarms (unknown if it’s a burglary or fire alarm), personal alarms, person locked out, assist invalid, and mental health.

An Arlington Firefighter was recently shot and nearly killed at a welfare check; personnel from Arlington Police Department, the Arlington Fire Department, and American Medical Response were deployed to an apartment community shortly before 1 a.m. on March 22. There were armed personnel with the Fire Department on that call.

The reason DFR is responding to these calls in Dallas is that the Dallas Police can’t get there in a timely manner; therefore, those with Dallas Fire Rescue are responding to these calls without the benefit of any armed protection, but they were given bulletproof vests. This will only enhance a wrongful death suit from the widow or widower of a Truck Captain; if a call needed a bulletproof vest, it stands to reason there should be a gun on location, too. There may be guns on location, but it won’t be held by anyone wearing a badge.

Forty thousand of these calls are handled by DFR annually in full-sized Fire Apparatus, both Engines and Ladder Trucks. These vehicles are valued at 1 million dollars plus, weigh 40,000 pounds, and get 3 miles to the gallon burning diesel fuel. These calls represent 18% of DFR’s call volume; if your closest station is out on a welfare check call, it will take them longer to get to you in a real emergency.

The system Dallas is running under currently wears out high-valued assets, which at one point caused the City of Dallas to have to rent a ladder truck. It also is wearing out firefighters to the point of causing a personnel shortage in DFR as we, the citizens, are paying overtime to the amount of 34 million dollars yearly. That was what was budgeted (2023). That number last year was actually 44 million dollars.

Although some changes were made recently, most of these calls were responded to Code 3 (lights and sirens), making those responses more dangerous to DFR personnel and the motoring public. Those accidents involving fire apparatus are more serious, more damaging, and more deadly than if it were a smaller, more pedestrian vehicle.

Picture yourself as a DFR firefighter. You just got done overhauling a two-alarm fire. You’re dead tired, and it’s 2 a.m. You just laid your head on the pillow for the first time that shift. You and your three brothers and sisters are dispatched to a welfare check that, in every city but Dallas, is handled by the guys and gals driving around in patrol cars.

At some point, with all that training provided by the City of Dallas and all that experience, you realize you can go to Frisco, Plano, Carrollton, University Park, Addison, or any of about 100 other cities to be paid equally or most likely better and not have to take that added 18% calls that are really police calls. What are you going to do?

How green are we in Dallas when we send the largest, most expensive vehicle to operate to calls with four people when they could and should be handled by two people in a car or SUV? It costs four times as much in fuel alone to operate a fire truck, and they all burn diesel. The maintenance of fire apparatus is way more expensive and requires greater expertise and more expensive parts if and when you can obtain them.

So we are wearing out firefighters and our fire apparatus, placing the public in greater danger, costing four times more to provide that service, and polluting the environment more, all because we don’t have enough cops. I call it bad government. What do you call it? No other city that I know of is doing this. If anyone can show me a city with this response model, I’ll show you another city that’s doing it wrong—really wrong!

One of the measures I use to determine how good or bad a government entity is, will be found in how well they treat their employees. It is an abuse of personnel to expect these men and women to take these risks when they didn’t sign up for that job. It is also abuse of those in the Police Department to continue to work so short-handed they now can’t even respond to a hospital to take a rape report in person. You, as a victim of a sexual assault, will be handed a phone to contact DPD before you can be examined; you won’t see a Dallas Police Department representative in person.

All of this is because we do not have enough Police in Dallas, Texas.

In addition to this, the poor treatment of employees is caused by purposefully not funding retirement systems as needed and charging all those who work at City Hall to park there while other employees at satellite locations park for free.

Poor treatment equals bad government. If there is anything in this Op-Ed you wish to complain about, below is contact information for your convenience.

Eric Johnson            Mayor          [email protected]                         214-670-3301

Chad West                Dist. 1         [email protected]                             214-670-0776

Jesse Moreno            Dist. 2         [email protected]                       214-670-4048

Zarin Gracey             Dist. 3        [email protected]                          214-670-0772

Carolyn Arnold         Dist. 4        [email protected]                             214-671-9347

Jamie Resendez        Dist.5          [email protected]                     214-670-4055

Omar Narvaez           Dist.6         [email protected]                       214-670-4199

Adam Bazaldua         Dist.7         [email protected]                    214-671-8919

Tennell Atkins          Dist.8         [email protected]              214-670-4066

Paula Blackmon        Dist.9         [email protected]                   214-671-8916

Kathy Stewart           Dist.10       [email protected]                  214-670-5958

Jaynie Shultz             Dist.11       [email protected]                       214-670-7817

Cara Mendelsohn      Dist.12       [email protected]                   214-670-4067

Gay Donnell Willis   Dist.13        [email protected]                              214-670-3816

Paul Ridley                Dist.14        [email protected]                            214-670-5415

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