ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – On Tuesday, the president of the Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters sent a critical letter to Atlanta leaders calling on swift action to fill the vehicle shortage at the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
“There has never, in modern history, been a fire department fleet as bad as our current fleet,” said Nate Bailey, president of the Atlanta Professional Firefighters, a union that represents 700 firefighters, roughly 80% of the department.
Atlanta News First acquired the letter addressed to the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Andre Dickens.
“APD has new helicopters and take-home cars and our firefighters just want a decent fire truck so they can honorably do their job and risk their life for our citizens,” Bailey wrote in the letter.
Said Bailey: “We absolutely have firefighters showing up (to a fire) in a pickup truck. We are using every vehicle that we have available to run calls. And that’s why this situation is so dire,” said Bailey.
On Wednesday, the Atlanta City Council is set to hear a proposal for a $16.4 million investment into a reserve fleet for the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department (AFRD).
On Monday, Fire Chief Rod Smith told city leaders that the department is down eight engines and nine ladder trucks across the city because of ongoing mechanical issues.
Bailey said that only leaves the city with five fully functioning ladder trucks in the case of a fire.
On Monday, Smith said he had to temporarily close three stations because of the equipment shortage.
Those three stations were Fire Station 30 in southwest Atlanta and Fire Stations 22 and 23 in northwest Atlanta.
“Regardless of whether it’s in Buckhead or Bankhead, it doesn’t matter. We need to have every single station in our city open for business,” said Councilmember Keisha Sean Waites.
Waites said she’d like the city to work with neighboring municipalities in a short-term rental of their vehicles.
Neighbors in communities near these temporarily closed fire stations expressed concern on Tuesday.
“It makes no sense. The city has so much money that they’re misdirecting in a lot of instances. And it’d be nice if the bare minimum was supplied but it doesn’t seem that’s the case,” said Rodrigo Castaneda, who lives around the corner from the temporarily closed Station 23.
Smith responded to the letter and ongoing concerns over equipment shortages in an email to Atlanta News First on Tuesday evening.
“First of all, AFRD is and has been able to respond to any and all emergencies that may arise. The city and AFRD take emergency response very seriously, and DPW Fleet services have taken steps to reduce vehicle downtime. Critical apparatus repairs are now immediately escalated to the fleet manager for evaluation,” Smith said in an email. “Senior technicians working on lower-priority repairs are immediately reassigned to critically needed equipment repairs. Technicians have been offered unrestricted overtime (including weekend hours) and additional vendors have been secured to assist with major repairs. The city has also partnered with a recruiting firm to onboard technicians skilled in fire apparatus repairs.”
“We are awaiting delivery of engines and ladder trucks that were previously ordered. We anticipate putting seven units back on the streets this week (two ladders and one engine being released today) and are exploring options to increase reserve units and turnaround for repairs.”
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