Texas firefighters to battle heat with new uniform: Shorts

Colin McDonald
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio firefighters want to wear shorts. They want to respond to calls in August, when temperatures can reach triple digits, and not risk passing out.

Until now, the standard uniform of long dark blue synthetic pants and light blue shirts — which neither keep them cool in the summer nor warm in the winter — was the only choice for firefighters, said Connie Hall, the local firefighters union vice president.

On Tuesday, members of the union showed a sampling of their new shorts, which now are on order.

The union also announced the recent formation of 15 committees overseeing various Fire Department operations. The committees are led by representatives from the department's administration and Local 624, the firefighters union.

Ideas from the committees have included installing advanced life-support equipment on firetrucks and getting authorization for firefighters who are trained paramedics to use that equipment when they beat ambulances to scenes.

That authorization and equipment, including backboards, intravenous lines, drugs, diabetic testing equipment and shock treatments, have been available since Oct. 1 on 50 vehicles and have been used 400 times, department spokesman Randy Jenkins said.

Along with the shorts, the union displayed polo shirts and moisture-absorbing tops that soon will be available as approved clothing for firefighters.

The clothing can be worn underneath the heavy bunker gear firefighters don when battling blazes.

"Ever since I became chief, firefighters have been coming to me and saying, 'Hey Chief, I want to wear shorts,"' said Fire Chief Charles Hood who was hired in April. "But I was not going to just sign off on it. I was going to put it through a committee."

The committees are a result of efforts to rebuild a working relationship between the city-hired chief and the union. Under former Fire Chief Robert Ojeda, relations were strained and firefighters felt that their suggestions were not being listened to, said firefighter Nathan Alonzo.

Of firefighters having more choice about what they will wear, District Chief William Pavliska said, "We are going to treat them like adults. They are going to act like adults, and we are going to get things done like adults."

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