An investigation continues after two HFD cadets were burned in a training exercise
Feb 10, 2005-Houston Chronicle
Houston Fire Department officials have suspended at least six instructors at the department’s fire academy as part of an investigation into a Jan. 19 training exercise in which two cadets were burned.
Rick Flanagan, the assistant fire chief overseeing training and career development, said the instructors HFD employees working side jobs as academy instructors for the Houston Community College System had been placed “on hold” until the city’s Office of Inspector General completes its investigation.
Flanagan said they will retain their HFD firefighting jobs.
He declined to say whether he expects more disciplinary actions after the investigation is finished.
Flanagan and others have confirmed that two cadets were injured during a “controlled burn” at the academy last month.
Controlled burns feature simulated structures that are set ablaze so cadets and firefighters can practice search-and-rescue techniques. Temperatures inside a controlled burn can reach 1,000 degrees.
The two cadets, whose identities have not been released, were injured during the exercise.
One suffered minor burns and was treated at the scene; the other was hospitalized with minor burns to his arms and back and significant burns to his scalp and head, according to sources familiar with the incident.
The cadets, Flanagan said, have since returned to the academy and are expected to graduate with their class Feb. 24.
“Situations like this are very rare,” said Flanagan. “This really concerns me. Something went wrong, and I want to find out whatever that void was.”
Flanagan said the inspector general’s investigation will look into what it was that instructors were trying to achieve with the exercise and whether all safety procedures and policies were followed.
He said he could not confirm allegations that the instructors may have been trying to haze the cadets.
Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia, a former police officer and chairman of council’s Public Safety Committee, said he has been briefed on the investigation and he wants to ensure that safety procedures were not ignored.
“What I got was that somebody was freelancing on the curriculum,” Garcia said. “It rightfully so hit the radar screens of the people who monitor the (fire) training. We’re supposed to be a smarter society, not one functioning on testosterone like it was in the old days.”
Garcia said he will be briefed again when the Inspector General’s Office has completed its investigation, which he said should be “in pretty short order.”