San Diego Lifeguards Prevented from Going to Houston to Help in Rescues

by on August 29, 2017 · 5 comments

in San Diego

CAL-OSHA truck packed and sitting in the yard.

Editor: The following is a letter to the governor of Texas, the mayor of Houston and the citizens of that city in crisis from Ed Harris, a San Diego lifeguard sergeant. Harris is part of a nationally-recognized River Rescue Team that went to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. They packed this time in preparation to go to Houston – but were blocked from going. Read this disturbing letter. 

Dear Governor Abbott, Mayor Turner and citizens of Houston:

I am sorry to tell you that we are not coming.

I am a San Diego Lifeguard Sergeant.  We have a River Rescue Team that is nationally recognized.  Our guards spent weeks rescuing people during hurricane Katrina.

We saw this storm approaching Thursday and packed our bags.  The team hooked up the taxpayer funded CAL-OES trailer and boats that have sat in storage for this type of event.

They waited for the call to go that would surely come quickly.

It did not.

On Saturday, our team was informed to unpack and take the boats over to the Fire Department.  They will go.

Our team stayed packed and readied more boats and asked to go.  Sunday came and we listened to your pleas for help; still we are not sent.  Monday, Aug. 28, some guards and I asked for time off so that we could drive our own boats and trucks on our own time.  We planned to be there by 3 pm Tuesday.

This was in response to your cries for anyone with a boat.

We were denied vacation to come help you.

The Coast Guard reports through CNN that there are thousands in need and the worst is yet to come, still we sit here.  We have plenty of staff to send, but we are blocked.

As professional lifeguards, we are saddened that there are moms, grandmas and children that we could rescue if we were only allowed to go help.

We are sickened that Chief Brian Fennessy has blocked our response.  F

ormer San Diego Fire Deputy Chief Doug Nakama is now Chief of Special Operations, OES for Governor Brown (Cell:  619-381-7800 and gov).  Nakama knows that we have ability and numerous resources.  He knows that we are self-sustained and could leave with an hours notice.  He does not send us.

It is with heavy hearts that we send this apology.  We can only hope that if our families were in need, someone would come.  Attached is a photo of our CAL-OSHA truck packed and sitting in the yard.

Ed Harris

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve August 29, 2017 at 10:57 am

Sure look forward to any counter on this issue.


triggerfinger August 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

It seems the only time Ed pops out of the woodwork is to stir up some malcontent about the fire department.

It’s kinda tiring, Ed. And I’m quite certain the governor and mayor over there have their hands full and don’t have an appetite for your drama either.


Frank Gormlie August 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

Ed Harris served this District well during his tenure as City Councilman. Plus his issue with the water-rescue changes were very reasonable and held the well-being of residents and visitors to our shores to a higher degree than others in the bureaucracy.


Colin Purdy August 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm

I don’t pretend to know these issues, or the politics between SDLG and SDFD, but I think Mr. Harris sounds reasonable here, both in terms of LG specialization and past precedent. (I had also thought he sounded on point in the recent past when he criticized the change in water rescue call primary routing to FD, instead of LG.)


Kathy August 30, 2017 at 12:51 pm

“Despite the public argument between the head of the lifeguards union in San Diego and the San Diego Fire-Rescue fire chief Tuesday, swift-water rescue teams were getting ready to deploy to the Hurricane Harvey disaster in Texas. Lifeguards told FOX 5 Tuesday late afternoon that they were now loading up for their deployment to Texas.”

Looks like they’re planning to go after all … seemingly with or without SDFD’s “approval.” It appears there’s an ongoing feud between the two agencies. I’m also aware of a couple instances where SDFD made doing business “difficult” at two eating/drinking establishments on Newport, which makes me wonder about “politicizing” their own agenda.

This is an historic flood and SDLG’s are certainly the most qualified resources to assist during these conditions. Texas made appeals to ordinary citizens with boats to help out, so it’s doubtful our lifeguards would be turned away due to “red tape” cited by SDFRD Chief Brian Fennessy.


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