“This guy gets maintenance requests all day, and it fell through,” James said Friday, refusing to name the lieutenant. “It was an oversight on his part. A one-line e-mail was sent to him, and it fell through.”
The fire chief caught plenty of heat Wednesday and Thursday after seeking a loan of 52 cylinders from Fort Gordon because more than 200 of Augusta’s had missed a five-year deadline for required testing. Fire union officials and some Augusta Commission members said the oversight put firefighter lives at risk, while city officials scrambled to find how the oversight occurred.
The missed e-mail was but one opportunity for fire administrators to be apprised of the approaching deadline, James said. Potentially contributing to the issue was that another firefighter who was in charge of equipment maintenance records has been out for months with an injury, he said.
Fire sergeants and drivers, however, are expected to check each fire engine and every piece of equipment on board each Monday, the chief said. Many of the cylinders are marked with the date of their last inspection, he said, but some of the dates likely washed off. But any firefighter should know about the five-year window on the vital equipment they all use for oxygen while fighting fires, he said.
“Anybody that uses the bottles should know that,” James said.
City Administrator Fred Russell said no decision has been made to punish the chief, and James said he continues to look for ways to prevent another oversight.
“As we look more into it and put a plan together, there may be some more corrective training to be sure that this doesn’t happen again,” James said. “We don’t want to do anything not to keep the firefighters safe, but nobody’s perfect.”