Houston fire inspectors are refusing to follow orders from a top administrator over building inspections because they fear the rules would endanger the public and put firefighters at risk. The open insurrection started after Houston Fire Marshal Jerry Ford issued new protocols last year that inspectors believe cut corners on safety in an effort to pad the division's performance statistics.
"Rushing through an inspection invites tragedy," Chief Inspector George Meadows wrote to superiors in an October email obtained by the Houston Chronicle, warning that the plan would "water down" the department's inspection process.
"This will no doubt have a negative effect on life safety. It has already had a negative impact on morale," he wrote.
Meadows declined to comment about his email, but a half-dozen employees at the Fire Marshal's Office, who spoke anonymously out of fear of retaliation, told the Chronicle that the new policy would force inspectors to perform substandard assessments of high-rises, apartments and other buildings. The new policy called for high-rise inspectors to review only every third floor of the city's tallest buildings, and instituted a daily quota for inspections. In a memo laying out his plans, Ford said inspectors should review each of the city's more than 600 high-rises every year and that employees should inspect three high-rises a day - a move one employee deemed "not possible."