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San Diego Lifeguards Send Passionate Apology Letter to Houston Officials

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 28 August, 2017
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read

In a letter that is bound to raise some questions and a few eyebrows, Ed Harris, a San Diego Lifeguard Sergeant and union leader, has apologized to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the citizens of Houston, that he and his nationally recognized river rescue team, have been told to stand down and not travel to Texas by the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Harris sent the letter as FEMA has asked that all available resources are sent to Houston to assist with the rescue efforts.

The following is the Facebook message Ed Harris wrote:

"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."

Harris continued:

"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. Today 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. Former San Diego Fire Deputy Chief Doug Nakama is now Chief of Special Operations, OES for Governor Brown (Cell: 619-381-7800 and Email:doug.nakama@caloes.ca.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."

In an interview for IVN, Ed Harris said, "Shame on Chief Brian Fennessy for blocking lifeguards from helping rescue thousands of Houston residents in need, when the resources are at his fingertips packed and loaded. This is the San Diego Fire Department turf war preventing us from going."

He added, "San Diegans should be calling former San Diego Fire Deputy Chief Doug Nakama, now OES for Governor Brown, and expressing their concerns that plenty of people and resources are sitting idle, waiting."

The turf war Harris is referring to is a political battle being waged between the departments.

Former San Diego lifeguard chief Brewster had this to say on Facebook:

In the Twitter post below, Chief Fennessy expressed his gratitude to the group he has dispatched for the effort. The San Diego Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 8 is on its way to San Antonio to assist authorities. It's not clear though why the expert swift water rescue team from San Diego is being kept behind.

IVN is working to get a response from Chief Fennessy.