It started on October 1, 1939. That?s when my dad started as a fire inspector with the Houston Fire Dept. He inspected commercial buildings in the southwest part of Houston, looking for violations of safety standards. This routine work occupied dad?s time his first 2 years with the department.
In 1941, dad?s responsibilities shifted to the ship channel at the Port of Houston. His concern there was docks and warehouses on the water front. He went into World War II military service in the Coast Guard, serving as a Chief Petty Officer. He continued there with the same duties he had in the fire dept. Working under the Captain of the Port of Houston, his primary area was the channel, but included areas as far out as Baytown. The port was vital to the war effort and it was Dad?s duty to protect the port from fire and explosion. Dad was assigned to the ship channel from 1942-1945, never got transferred to any other duty, and was honorably discharged August 31, 1945.
After the war, dad went back to the fire dept. in September 1945, and was promoted to chief inspector. In 1947, dad had a weekly program on Houston radio station KPRC every Saturday. He covered the major fire news of the week. Also, he would have a guest on the show. For example, one week he had on a witness to the New London, Texas fire disaster from the 1930?s. In January 1948, dad?s next promotion was arson investigator. The only other man in the arson dept. at that time was Harry Locey and he was dad?s assistant. The 1st 11 months those two were in place, they returned more indictments than in the previous 6 years.
At this time, dad became very active in the Houston Professional Firefighters Union as chairman of the research committee. He started to compare the fire department with the police department and discovered the fire department was completely inferior.
So, dad did a study on recruiting, training and professional education of firemen. He wrote most of a book that was published on the subject. It established acceptable standards for recruiting and training firefighters, and set up higher education programs with South Texas College and San Jacinto College. He met with city officials (the mayor, the city council, and the civil service director) and found that his new program was generally accepted. Dad was an instructor in arson and criminal investigation of life and safety at South Texas College and San Jacinto College. He lectured at Texas A&M University and at annual meetings with the National Fire Protection Association. He continued on with this until it took up too much time from his work at the fire dept. He then started assigning the speeches to other men in the arson dept. During dad?s tenure as chief arson investigator from 1948-1972, the arson investigators increased in number from 2 to 60.
From 1946-1953, dad went to law school at South Texas College of Law. His prelaw work was done at the University of Houston. Upon graduation, he was an assistant district attorney for Harris county, from 1953-1955. He was a prosecutor for capital and ordinary felony cases for 2 years. When dad assisted in 6 cases that involved the death penalty, that was 6 cases where the defendant involved got the death penalty. Given that the Assistant District Attorney?s job was a political appointment, and dad already had 16 years of seniority with the fire dept., so he opted to go back to the fire dept. Dad taught criminal law and procedure at the police academy as well as at other law enforcement agencies.
In 1955, dad went back to the fire dept. as chief arson investigator. In 1960, the department added more people to the arson division based on the studies and budget preparations. The work load of the arson division and the manpower it took to do the job had been defined.
In 1972, dad was promoted to fire marshal. As fire marshal, he established training programs, about 400 hours for inspectors and about 400 hours for investigators. Legislation was passed into law in Austin. This law set up minimum standards for Texas fire departments and for the firefighters. Dad established training programs for inspectors that were to go for a period of 12 weeks. This applied to arson investigators as well. Some of the instructors on these programs got paid. Students were on the payroll since they were classified as firemen. At this time, to be an investigator or inspector, you had to be a fireman first. Dad wrote the statute, the code of criminal procedure, article 2.12, that set up who actually were to be classified as law enforcement people. This act put fire investigators into the law enforcement group. As fire marshal, dad was in charge of the inspection division and the arson investigation division.
?Houston?s Fire Problem? was a book that attempted to show the shortage of manpower in the fire department. This was written by dad and Max McRae, the head of the hazardous materials response team. This book was presented to the mayor and the city council in an attempt to get a pay raise for fire fighters and to get an increase in manpower. This book was written about 1970.
The book, "Recommended Standards For Fire Fighters" was published in 1970. It contained recommended standards for fire fighters and was distributed to fire departments throughout the country. The book became a nationwide standard. It was written for the International Union of Fire Fighters.
Professional History of Alcus Greer