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Limits on aerial truck use will be reviewed

Fire response policy will be reviewed, officials say

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The change to no longer automatically dispatching an aerial ladder truck to residential fires south of Tobacco Road concerns some southside residents, who say the city is downsizing the fire protection for which they pay taxes.

According to Augusta Fire Chief Howard Willis, Deputy City Admin­istrator Bill Shanahan and Depu­ty Fire Chief Mike Rogers, however, the change just means swapping one piece of equipment for another.

“This was not a move to change the level of service. It’s been our intent for the last several years to enhance the level of service,” said Rogers, the deputy chief for technical services.

Though the department is no longer dispatching the aerial truck housed at Station 6 on Richmond Hill Road to every residential fire south of Tobacco Road, the battalion chief in charge can always call for one, Willis said.

The new policy was put to the test Friday morning, when an Augusta firefighter discovered a fire at a southside apartment motel. As a first unit was en route, the firefighter in charge called for an aerial truck, which arrived moments later, Willis said.

Still, in an apparent response to concerns, Willis said late Friday that he will be meeting with battalion chiefs to review the policy.

The change does not affect fire response to factories, large commercial buildings, schools or other major structures, he said.

The city’s six aerial trucks – which vary in age and cost nearly $1 million apiece – are more useful within the old city limits, where there are more multi-story buildings, Shanahan said.

Jeremy Wallen, the spokesman for Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue, said Columbia County doesn’t send an aerial truck out on every call because they are of limited use in areas without hydrants or with unpaved roads.

For shooting water onto the roof of a two-story house, deck guns generally work just as well or better, Wallen said.

Augusta Commission members had varying views on the issue.

“It’s like sending a bomb squad off to a firecracker,” Com­missioner Joe Jackson, the chairman of the city’s public safety department, said of using the trucks in all home fire calls.

Jackson said he’s requesting data on how many times the aerial truck turns around during a response because it’s not needed.

“I wouldn’t think we would run ladder trucks to residential properties automatically anywhere,” Commissioner Jerry Brigham said.

The city has built two new fire stations - Station 12 on Hephzibah McBean Road and Station 19 on Brown Road - since consolidation, and the area’s Insurance Services Office rating has dropped, Rogers said. The lower the rating, the better, according to officials.

The rating, used by insurance companies to set property insurance rates, was not affected by limiting the aerial truck’s response, Willis said.

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ConcernedTaxpayer 08/21/11 - 06:54 am
Maybe the people who are

Maybe the people who are complaining would rather pay higher taxes to pay for the times it is not needed.

curly123053 08/21/11 - 02:18 pm
Why ??? Why roll an aerial

Why ??? Why roll an aerial truck on every residential fire? I spent 15 years in the fire service and aerial trucks rarely rolled except when requested, or when they were covering other fires due to all the engine companies being out on other calls. I can just imagine the fuel waste involved in dispatching a ladder/bucket truck to every call. And from experience I can agree with Mr. Wallen that the deck guns do work just as well on up to 2 story buildings. Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department will realize a major savings on their fuel bill with this new policy.

HR71C10 08/21/11 - 04:03 pm
Curly, I have no problem with

Curly, I have no problem with not rolling a ladder on residential calls, as long as it doesn't roll to ANY residential calls. If it doesn't get sent to south augusta, it shouldn't get sent to east or west augusta either. We pay equal taxes, we should get equal service. If you send it to the west side, it better go south too. To your comment about monitors and deck guns.... when you need an elevated stream there is NO REPLACEMENT for it. If Mr. Wallen is correct, then why do all the calls shown on TV show Martinez putting out housefires with an aerial???

curly123053 08/21/11 - 04:46 pm
HR71C10, I was referring to

HR71C10, I was referring to any residential fire anywhere unless it is requested or it's one of the last trucks available for incoming calls. On some 2 story working fires the aerial serves a good purpose, but on others it's simply not needed. If it's a 2 story structure fire with possible entrapment it should roll automatically.

Techfan 08/21/11 - 08:51 pm
As long as the policy is

As long as the policy is applied equally to all parts of the city, no problem.

Uncle Sparky
Uncle Sparky 08/21/11 - 09:06 pm
Hey guys, the problem here

Hey guys, the problem here has little to do with an aerial, but the loss of a responding truck company with 3 necessary firefighters, additional ground ladders, and specialized salvage & overgaul equipment. Its ISO required and allows 2 in and 2 out. In the rural areas, backup companies are not around the block. Waiting to call for a truck company is nuts! Don't get caught up in this long ladder argument. With the personnel shortages it's a lot easier to vent a two or three story roof from a stick, than from a thirty five foot ground ladder. And, for the one advocating a deck gun should remember two things: In rural Richmond County many fires are fought using tankers and then there's the requirement to evacuate a strructure before pumping 8000 pounds of water a minute into the building. The citizens deserve a full response of personnel and equipment. The firefighters deserve a full response capability. Let the beancounters cut corners somewhere else.

Asitisinaug 08/21/11 - 10:14 pm
Well what we don't need is

Well what we don't need is commissoners who don't have a clue about fire fighting stratigies helping to make the final decision or in any way, shape or form micro-managing any public safety agency. This is exactly what they would be trying to do as well if we had county police and it would be a disaster.

Just as we don't need commissoners spouting off their ill informed opinions, we don't need this to turn into a "well this side of the county gets it so we do to" scenerio. It may or may not be needed in various parts of the county.

Here is an idea, let is do what is best for the entire county and its citizens. So, what exactly is best? Well, for now, I suppose we will go with the leaders of the Fire Departments suggestions. However, we all know they are under great pressure to conform to any requests of the commission and budgets are tight so and outside agency opinion would be best. It may not be what is done (often isn't) but at least we would know what is best for our area.

How can this be acheived? Well, frankly, our Fire Department should be accredited and evaluated by efficient accrediting agencies.

Accreditation is a way to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of a fire department by determining community risks and fire safety needs, accurately evaluating the organization’s performance, and providing a method for continuous improvement.

Furthermore, we need this for law enforcements as well. It will clearly show that RCSO is greatly understaffed and underfunded. Additionally, lack of funds for training continue to place officers lives in jeopardy as well as when they need assistance in dangerous situations.

Lets make the city better and do our best to go with national accrediting agencies that have performed extensive research to determine the best needs and procedurs for Public Safety Agencies.

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