DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - DeKalb County firefighters are one step closer to moving away from what they call faulty air packs.
County commissioners voted on the side of the firefighters at a budget meeting Tuesday. Commissioners voted 4-3 on the county’s budget, which included a line about money for new breathing equipment.
“I’m very happy. I want to thank the Board of Commissioners for voting on this,” DeKalb Fire Deputy Chief Norman Augustin told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield.
Byfield has spent weeks reporting on safety concerns about the air packs. Firefighters said their Draeger brand air packs regularly fail on them while they’re in burning buildings, and they have to run out for air mid-rescue. The fire chief has reported 22 life-threatening close calls related to the equipment.
The new budget will fund $2 million for new breathing equipment or air packs for the county's firefighters.
“It’s a relief for me as deputy chief of operations, because I represent those people out there every day and this is a good day for us,” Augustin said.
The DeKalb firefighters’ union president said he hopes members will have the new equipment in months.
“It is still a safety risk from now and until that point, but definitely the momentum is there, and we just need to keep it going,” Union President Nathan Leota said.
A Draeger representative told Byfield the company is disappointed in the county’s vote and plans to continue working with the department. On Monday, the company’s vice president sent the county's fire chief a list of proposed solutions to deal with the firefighters complaints. Draeger contends there is a maintenance problem in DeKalb, but firefighters said they don’t trust the equipment.
Draeger stressed that the company has 1 million air packs in use worldwide, including 20,000 owned by the U.S. military, and said the military bought more this week.