Fire officials talk solutions for faulty air packs

by: Erica Byfield Updated:


DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - The firefighters union president in DeKalb said he had a close call with a piece of breathing equipment many believe the county must replace.

Channel 2 Action News first exposed problems with the air packs in DeKalb County back in 2010.

Nathan Leota said firefighters depend on the Drager air packs for oxygen.

"Your key thing is if this fails, I'm in immediate danger. I need to get out of this building," said Leota, who serves as DeKalb Professional Firefighter Local 1492 president.

He told Channel 2's Erica Byfield he was forced to run out of a burning building when his air pack failed.

"I tried to grab my regulator and put it back in my mask, and then realized it wasn't going back in," Leota said.

He said he later realized his regulator broke into two pieces. Leota also told Byfield other union members have reported their air packs shutting off without cause.

The situation prompted Channel2 Action News to contact eight other metro-area fire departments to determine which kind of air packs their firefighters use. The investigation found that only DeKalb County uses Dragers.

Fire departments in the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, Cobb County, Gwinnett County, Henry County, Cherokee County and Clayton County all use Scott air packs; while Douglas County firefighters use ISI Vikings.

In a previous report, Channel 2 shared that DeKalb's Chief Edward O'Brien asked for $2 million to replace his firefighters' air packs. But the CEO did not include new air packs in his proposed budget for 2012.

The county's leadership now says they will find a way to replace the air packs, a change Leota said cannot happen soon enough.