Chief: Engine responding to Twin Peaks fire malfunctioned

Augusta Fire fighters work to put out a fire at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Augusta, Ga., Monday afternoon June 26, 2017. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

The first Augusta Fire Department pumper truck to arrive at the scene of Monday’s Twin Peaks fire malfunctioned and couldn’t pump water, Fire Chief Chris James said.

 

“When it got to the scene the apparatus shut off,” he said Friday.

James confirmed widespread reports that first-arriving personnel from Engine Co. 9 had problems at the fire that was set deliberately by a former employee, despite the Pierce pumper truck having undergone maintenance Monday morning before the incident.

James said that previously reported problems “could not be duplicated” when the truck went in for maintenance Monday and it was put back in service after getting an oil change and tire rotation.

In a previous Augusta Chronicle request for information, department spokeswoman Dee Griffin stated that the earlier reported problem with the truck that couldn’t be duplicated was a parking brake switch, but that the problem at the fire scene was the ignition.

Griffin, who resigned Thursday, said her responses had been “pretty much dictated” by the fire chief. James said her resignation was likely to take a “higher-paying job” that she preferred.

James in-sourced maintenance of the city fire fleet two years ago and has touted significant savings as commissioners consider in-sourcing the rest of vehicle maintenance.

The fire truck was dispatched from Engine Co. 9 on Walton Way Extension at 12:49 p.m. Monday and arrived at the fire at 12:50 p.m., but “tapes” were having to be reviewed to determine when the second-arriving engine, Engine 15, got to the fire, Griffin said.

The city has not responded to a request for the names and years of service of those aboard Engine 9.

Clay Mingus, the chief legal officer for La Cima Restaurants, LLC which owns the Twin Peaks franchise in the state, said the company was unaware of the problems with the pumper truck and didn’t have a comment at this time. He said Wednesday that the company plans to rebuild the restaurant on 277 Robert C. Daniel Parkway and relocate workers. The restaurant suffered damage to the inside, front entrance and roof.

The restaurant did not have a sprinkler system, according to documents previously obtained by The Augusta Chronicle. City inspectors asked restaurant owners to add a sprinkler system during 2014 renovations to the building, which formerly housed the restaurant Sticky Fingers, according to the documents.

In January 2015, however, architect Carlton B. Parker wrote Augusta Fire Marshal Jason Beard and building official Marshall Masters that the building’s new seating plan showed that occupancy would not exceed 300 and that it was classified as “small assembly” and not required to have a sprinkler system. Beard subsequently signed off on the certificate of occupancy.

Roland Evan Croyle, 45, was arrested Monday and charged in the incident. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said Croyle crashed his blue Mitsubishi Montero SUV into Twin Peaks at 12:49 p.m. and then set the building on fire. According to the sheriff’s office, Croyle had a large knife with a 8 to 10 inch blade on it.

According to the sheriff’s office, Croyle doused gas inside the restaurant and then ignited it. However, the sheriff’s office and Richmond County Fire Department have yet to release additional information about what was used to start the fire and video taken by a bystander appears to show Croyle carrying into the restaurant a propane tank that others at the scene also reported.

Croyle is being held at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center and is charged with arson in the first degree and four counts of aggravated assault.

Staff writer Nefeteria Brewster contributed to this article.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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