Austin Fire Department: Drinking in Drive-Throughs

Two firefighters arrested for DWIs while chomping fries


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 almost 40 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  

More Austin Fire Department
Where’s the Fire, Chief?
Where’s the Fire, Chief?
City announces finalists to succeed Rhoda Mae Kerr

Mike Clark-Madison, Oct. 19, 2018

Finding a New Fire Chief
Finding a New Fire Chief
Search to replace Rhoda Mae Kerr trudges on

Nina Hernandez, Oct. 12, 2018

More by Chase Hoffberger
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Revisiting the Railroad Killer
Local journo Alex Hannaford’s Dead Man Talking podcast investigates the case against a man on death row

Nov. 16, 2018

EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
EMS Union Set for Leadership Contest
Association to cast ballot between incumbent Tony Marquardt or challenger Selena Xie

Nov. 16, 2018


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

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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