Nueces County Emergency Services District No. 3 will “temporarily stop providing mutual aid” to the Kleberg County Volunteer Fire Department, according to an e-mail sent to Kleberg County officials on Saturday afternoon.
John Davis, the Nueces County ESD3 Fire Chief, wrote in the e-mail that the fire department is temporarily refusing to supply mutual aid to the KCVFD because of “over aggressive behavior and or (sic) bullying tactics,” until issues within the KCVFD have been resolved.
The issue was made public at Monday’s Kleberg County Commissioners meeting after Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid presented a text message he received from Davis which said the county would no longer receive mutual aid from Nueces County ESD3.
Madrid said when he asked Davis if this “announcement” was coming from his commissioners, Davis sent an official e-mail.
“Let me start by saying that this was not by any means an easy decision or one that was decided on in just a short period of time. I have been thinking about (sic) for some time now,” Davis said in the e-mail. “At the present time Nueces County ESD3 will temporarily stop providing mutual aid to your county. Reasons being is that for quite some time there have been incidents on different emergency scenes with over aggressive behavior and or (sic) bullying tactics. In some cases I have seen it for myself. There is (sic) also tensions between the two of your stations and it has boiled over onto emergency scenes which makes my personnel uncomfortable and at times this behavior and tensions have caused near misses for injuries and there have been a few incidents where my personnel and others have suffered an injury while on one of your emergency scenes.
“The safety of my personnel will always come first. Some of our personnel have expressed that (they) do not want to go down for these reasons. Gentlemen, the time for change has come before this continues to spiral out of control and someone gets seriously injured or, god forbid, death.”
Davis then gave a suggestion that Kleberg County appoint a fire chief to “alleviate some of the issues” the county is experiencing between its firehouses.
“Whether this is to be a paid position now or later it needs to happen now,” Davis said. “I know that other departments will agree and support that this be done and they are aware that these incidents have been taking place as well, and we all decided for whatever reason to look the other way, but I can’t anymore especially when it effects the safety of my personnel.”
Davis said all five of his fire commissioners were made aware of his decision, and “fully support” it.
“I would hope that a formal written or email resolution is met promptly so that we can continue to work closely and safely with all of you.” Davis said.
Madrid said he reached out to Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales to speak about the issue but was unable to reach her. Madrid said the matter is “urgent enough” that the county commissioners needed to take action.
“I’ve got a proposition that I think will fix this issue,” Madrid said. “I think it’s about time we have one fire chief that controls both Riviera and Ricardo. I think it needs to be a paid position, so that there’s accountability both in the management side of the house and there’s fiscal accountability.”
Madrid said if a fire chief outside of Kleberg County is speaking about safety issues because the two firehouses cannot get along together, the commissioners court “needs to intervene.”
“Especially if they’re telling us we’re not going to have mutual aid (from ESD3) If there’s a fire out here, and we don’t have mutual aid, and they’re the closest guys on the block to help us, we’re putting our people at risk.”
Madrid said he would set up a meeting with Kingsville Fire Chief Adrian Garcia about being “more readily available to help us” in emergency situations.
Madrid reiterated that the county will take precautions in the meantime but said “regardless of the underlying issue, this just needs to be fixed.”
Pct. 1 County Commissioner David Rosse said the decision by Nueces County ESD3 officials should have come with a warning, which would have allowed them to resolve the issue sooner, but because they have decided to “cut off” Kleberg County, as of now, “If (ESD3) had a major event, they can expect us not to show up to it.”
“To cut us off at the knees like that, to me, is very unprofessional,” Rosse said. And it should not happen that way. It should have been a forewarning.
“If they get in a serious bind, if they need firetrucks and manpower, if (Davis) stopped the MOU, we can’t respond to his fires either.”
Madrid agreed, and said he is hoping to regain the cooperation of ESD3 soon for the added safety of Kleberg County.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Davis said he wanted to be clear that it is a “temporary suspension” of mutual aid, and there is no written agreement that says ESD3 must provide assistance to Kleberg County.
“The obligation of this department is to the citizens of Nueces County,” Davis said. “(Kleberg County officials) have known about all this, they’ve known about it for quite some time. And they, for whatever reason, decided to turn the other cheek or not address the issues. We are wanting some issues taken care of for safety reasons, and we’d like to have that mutual aid agreement done and on paper, once and for all.
“We’d be more than happy and pleased to go back to help them as soon as we get something on paper and they resolve their internal issues within the fire department.”
Davis also said the issue should have remained between the individuals involved and not been brought up in a public forum.
“It should have stayed in between the professionals and it be handled, and that would have been it,” Davis said.
The Kleberg County fire stations were contacted, but did not respond for comment.