An Augusta Fire Department lieutenant has been reprimanded after the department takes the heat over fire tanks. As we reported Thursday, the fire department missed the deadline on getting about 150 oxygen tanks inspected forcing the department to borrow some from Fort Gordon. An internal investigation has led to disciplinary action, but is there more blame to go around? WJBF News Channel 6's George Eskola has the story.
An Augusta Fire Department lieutenant has been reprimanded after the department takes the heat over fire tanks.
The Fire Department missed the deadline on getting about 150 oxygen tanks inspected, forcing the department to borrow some from Fort Gordon. An internal investigation has led to disciplinary action, but is there more blame to go around?
The air tanks needed to be tested and Fire Chief Chris James says the department's logistics lieuteant dropped the ball by missing an e-mail sent weeks ago. “We did find we had a battalion chief sent an e-mail March 12th. It was sent to the logistics office and it was there. Due to the numerous requests, it was overlooked,” Chief James says.
Charles Masters, of the Augusta Professional Firefighters Association, tells WJBF News Channel 6 it was the administration's responsibilithy to make sure the tanks were certified, because they are a lifeline for firefighters.
The tanks are required to be to be tested every five years.
“The deadline didn't just creep up on anybody. The date when these tanks were purchased says right here, 04/08, five years ago last month, and these tanks are inspected every week,” Chief James says. “All the sergents [who] are driving the apparatus every Monday pull off all the equipment and they check all the equipment…” he adds.
So, from the middle of March until Tuesday, the air tanks with the expiration date for testing written them were checked, by firefighters, and though this is a critical piece of lifesaving equipment, Chief James says no one from the Professional Firefighters Association made contract that the deadline was approaching.
“The union president, or whoever, they have my phone number. They call on other issues,” Chief James says. “They were quick to alert the media that the tanks had expired? we asked. “Yeah,” Chief James says.
So, with the air bottles being checked regularly, why didn't someone step up and alert the Fire Chief's office, if there was a safety concern?
“Concerning…here was someone playing politics and not reporting this, well I don't know if was the reason the one thing, if the trucks are being inspected every week or every day, something should have been caught months ago,” says Augusta Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.
But, only after the tanks testing date passed did word get out.
“Was this to get you to embarrass you?” we asked Chief James. “It's a possibility, but we choose as a department just to move forward,” he says.
We made repeated calls to Augusta Professional Firefighters Assocation president Charles Masters looking for his comment on Chief James' statements on the oxygen tanks, but he didn't get back to me.
Lieutenant Harold Brown recived a written repremand for missing the e-mail about the tanks.