WESLACO, Texas (KVEO) — When the pandemic began, Weslaco Fire Chief Antonio Lopez became the emergency management coordinator for the city, leaving Assistant Fire Chief Jaime Hernandez in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city’s fire department.
On May 5, leaders for the Weslaco Firefighters association released a statement saying they had voted no confidence in Hernandez as the leader of the fire department.
They said the vote was them acting proactively, something they said Assistant Chief Hernandez did not do.
“When it deals with our lives, our safety, and –most importantly– the citizens of Weslaco, their safety, I don’t think we have time to be waiting around until something happens,” said J.D. Peña, the president of Weslaco Firefighters association.
Now that the pandemic is starting to alleviate, the members of the firefighters association decided it was time to do what was best for them.
“This is our lives, we love what we do and we’re going to keep doing it. But we’re not going to lay down and watch something happen if we know we can speak up,” said Peña.
Peña told KVEO that the lack of adequate leadership was causing morale, which was already low due to the pandemic, to plummet.
Weslaco Firefighters Association Vice-President Carlos Hernandez listed off some of the complaints the association had with Assistant Chief Hernandez.
“How we’re deployed, how our resources are used, the equipment that’s missing,” he said. Peña added that the priorities of the assistant chief were not being taken well by the firefighters and EMS in the city.
Hernandez also said that “how some personnel gets treated versus other personnel” was not appreciated.
The firefighters would like to see a new assistant fire chief put in place, and they said there are plenty of worthy candidates in the department.
“We have strong, strong leaders at the lower levels that are great leaders that have pulled us through this pandemic, and this leadership is coming from the bottom,” said Hernandez.
Pena told KVEO that the association didn’t want to see assistant chief Hernandez fired, they just wanted someone else put in his position.
The city of Weslaco released a statement that said they were looking into the matter and assured residents that fire and EMS services would continue uninterrupted in the interim.
The city of Weslaco is in receipt of the letter submitted by the Weslaco Firefighters Association, a voluntary association and bargaining agent. The administration is reviewing any and all specifics outlined in the letter, in accordance with proper protocol and procedures. Importantly, the city of Weslaco ensures its residents that fire and emergency medical services will not be impacted and the current 71 firefighters and paramedic personnel continue working hard to keep the community safe at all times.-Cristina Garcia, public information officer for Weslaco