Austin Fire Department: Drinking in Drive-Throughs

Two firefighters arrested for DWIs while chomping fries


by Thinkstock.com

The past six weeks have seen two sworn employees of the Austin Fire Department suspended 60 days for drinking and driving. In an odd twist, in both cases the firefighters were arrested while purchasing food at fast-food restaurants.

Eddie Hernandez, a firefighter with the city since 2008, got picked up for his DWI at an In-N-Out Burger in North Austin on May 1. Hernandez was with a friend and fell asleep while waiting in line at the restaurant's drive-through. He was awakened by an In-N-Out staff member, then told to go wait in the parking lot for his order. A manager called 911; responding officers called DWI Highway Enforcement to run a field sobriety test, which Hernandez failed. He was booked into Travis County Jail with a blood alcohol content level of .206, well over the state-prescribed limit of .08. Word of Hernandez's suspension went public on June 27, through a memo issued to Civil Service by Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr. He'll remain off AFD trucks until Aug. 28, at which point he'll begin a probationary period of one year.

On Aug. 4, Kerr submitted a similar suspension, this time to Fire Specialist Blake Mashburn. The 12-year veteran was eating in his parked car at a Sonic Drive-In in Cedar Park when police from CPPD pulled up and told him they'd received a complaint about his reckless driving prior to his arrival at the Sonic. Kerr said Mashburn refused a field sobriety test and got transported down to TCJ, where he registered a blood alcohol content level of .126. His suspension continues through Oct. 4. As with Hernandez, Mashburn will submit to counseling and rehab, and begin a probationary period of one year upon his return to duty.

A spike in DWI arrests of local firefighters (drinking and driving led to 38% of the department's suspensions between Feb. 2009 and Oct. 2013) encouraged Kerr to increase the standard duration of suspensions from 10 to 15 days in Nov. 2013. The chief indefinitely suspended one of her longest-tenured firefighters in July 2014 when she terminated 29-year veteran Mark Madison. Other instances since the Nov. 2013 memo suggest that 60-day suspensions for DWIs will become the norm at AFD.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Fire Department
The Long Road to Responsive Fire Coverage
The Long Road to Responsive Fire Coverage
It appears the city’s in no big rush

Nina Hernandez, Dec. 8, 2017

Former Firefighter Out on Bond
Former Firefighter Out on Bond
James Baker facing charges of invasive video recording

Nina Hernandez, Nov. 24, 2017

More by Chase Hoffberger
Texas GOP Goes Full Heel
Texas GOP Goes Full Heel
The Republican Party of Texas established its party platform last weekend. It’s obviously nuts.

June 22, 2018

Brian Manley: “Austin’s Next Police Chief”
Brian Manley: “Austin’s Next Police Chief”
APD vet expects appointment Thursday at Council

June 15, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Fire Department, Eddie Hernandez, In-N-Out, DWI, Blake Mashburn, DWI Highway Enforcement, Sonic Drive-In

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle