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Lieutenant disciplined in Augusta fire department slip-up

Friday, May 3, 2013 7:18 PM
Last updated Saturday, May 4, 2013 5:43 AM
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A lieutenant who didn’t forward a message in March about some Augusta Fire Department air cylinders nearing an April 30 inspection deadline has been disciplined, Fire Chief Chris James said Friday.

Fire Chief Chris James caught heat Wednesday and Thursday after seeking a loan of 52 air cylinders from Fort Gordon.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
Fire Chief Chris James caught heat Wednesday and Thursday after seeking a loan of 52 air cylinders from Fort Gordon.

“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.”

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PBrig822
64
Points
PBrig822 05/03/13 - 09:28 pm
9
0

Dates

Those dates don't just wash off.

itsanotherday1
34600
Points
itsanotherday1 05/03/13 - 09:52 pm
8
0

Here we go..

The "nobody's perfect" (everybody makes mistakes) excuse. Just man up and say "we screwed up, and we are taking measures for it to not happen again". What is so hard about that? I have a lot more respect for people who stand up than those who find excuses.

QuickDraw
62
Points
QuickDraw 05/03/13 - 10:25 pm
9
0

Excuse after Excuse

I have never seen so many excuses in my life. This is a joke right? Somebody please give this man a clue.

L A Williams
58
Points
L A Williams 05/03/13 - 10:46 pm
10
0

Too many excuses, not enough factual accuracy.

I’m afraid Chief James is either being disingenuous or simply does not know that of which he speaks.

You see All SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) cylinders require periodic hydrostatic testing as required by 49 CFR 180.205 .

The frequency of the maintenance depends upon the cylinder material.
Marking of the cylinders is strictly defined under Subpart C--QUALIFICATION, MAINTENANCE AND USE OF CYLINDERS more specifically §180.213 . Reading in part as follows:

(c) Requalification marking method. The depth of requalification markings may not be greater than specified in the applicable specification. The markings must be made by stamping, engraving, scribing or other method that produces a legible, durable mark.

So you see, markings do not and cannot, as Chief James apparently doesn’t know, when he clearly and inaccurately stated “ some of the dates likely washed off.”

Further, SCBA contains compressed air NOT OXYGEN! To use Chief James words, “Anybody that uses the bottles should know that.” And yes they should, particularly, if that would be the Chief of the Fire Department.

It appears the whole, and yes, potentially dangerous situation would not have seen the light of day had it not been necessary to appeal to outside agencies for help with what, in my view, is clearly mismanagement and negligence resulting from Chief James’s inattention and reluctant to claim failure and responsibility.

I find it unreasonable to believe that out of 19 and possibly more Engine Companies, having at least one Captain, two Lieutenants, and three Sergeants’ each, that one man being out ill, and one Lieutenant being what appears nothing more than a scape goat are deemed to be a viable reason for such mismanagement to occur.

No this is clearly a mismanagement problem starting with the office of the Chief of the Fire Department.

Young Fred
13778
Points
Young Fred 05/04/13 - 02:27 am
6
0

Why all the “shock”? Gov't

Why all the “shock”?

Gov't employees, that's what they do on an every day basis, it just so happens in this instance he got caught not doing his job. It happens every day, in practically every department.

It's the “culture” they work in. I don't believe this man purposely did anything wrong. He just got a little “slack” (or comfortable), as people on the gov't payroll tend to get.

What amazes me is the amount of people who are shocked by this.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few real professionals within gov't departments; and they are gems!!!

But even the best gets jaded and “comfortable” after too many years in a culture of mediocrity.

maandpa
156
Points
maandpa 05/04/13 - 06:31 am
6
0

Poor Peons

Now that the poor peons have been punished, what about the person in charge of the fire department?

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 05/04/13 - 06:33 am
5
3

Chief James described what

Chief James described what happened. What more could he do except ensure it doesn't happen again? Are we to believe the rank and file firefighters pointed out the issue to their officers before the tanks expired? If that happened I'd investigate further if I were Chief James. One or more of the supervisiors should have stepped foward.

jmo
12189
Points
jmo 05/04/13 - 07:02 am
6
1

Apparently......

the Monday inspections by the Fire Sergeants and Drivers are not being done as prescribed. Another example of "Young Fred's" complacency remark.

nocnoc
30764
Points
nocnoc 05/04/13 - 07:36 am
9
0

Sure is different in

Sure is different in ARC?

Fire Friends up in Atlanta check their equipment each shift and flag bad or expired items. BEFORE THEY ROLL.

TrulyWorried
9690
Points
TrulyWorried 05/04/13 - 07:50 am
6
0

Fire fighters

and their lives are at stake - day in and day out - these cylinders are truly a matter of life or death. Good grief - wake up folks, ALL of those that have to depend on this equipment!!
But, how true - scape goats will always be found.

soapy_725
43306
Points
soapy_725 05/04/13 - 08:57 am
0
0

The ARC of No Covenant

Unpublished

only hires the BEST. "He man, my bottle is cracked, low on air and my mask is leaking around my beard." "Its nothing. Just some useless maintenance issue. Saddle up and stay safe."

soapy_725
43306
Points
soapy_725 05/04/13 - 08:59 am
0
0

Just another day in Detroit Georgia

Unpublished

Mo Town of the south. Mo People riding the government gravy train.

rmwhitley
5081
Points
rmwhitley 05/04/13 - 11:20 am
0
0

According to

Unpublished

chief james, leadership starts at the bottom.

QuickDraw
62
Points
QuickDraw 05/04/13 - 11:37 am
5
0

Chief doesn't even know !

Chief James if you remember the apparatus are checked each day but you probably don't remember that though. What a joke !

sjsd17
9
Points
sjsd17 05/04/13 - 03:40 pm
3
1

Edited to remove...there's no

Edited to remove...there's no use.

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 05/04/13 - 02:56 pm
4
4

Look, this was NOT a critical mistake

Look, this was NOT a critical mistake. Tanks can expire and still have years of use left. The whole thing reeks of someone trying to get another in trouble. Chief James corrected the mistake once he was aware of the problem by borrowing cannisters from the fort. What more do you want?

onethickdiva
1558
Points
onethickdiva 05/04/13 - 03:31 pm
3
0

Daily checks

I, too, thought the equipment was checked daily. I could very well be wrong but if so it was still operational. I can certainly understand how it appears though and we need a good checks and balances system.

Parnell S
64
Points
Parnell S 05/04/13 - 04:50 pm
1
0

Wrong Riverman1

This cylinders are srictly governed by DOT regulations. True they can be used after the expired hydro date. They CANNOT be filled if the hydro date has expired. At this time the cylinders are required to be removed from service until it passes the required testing. No exceptions!

Riverman1
70479
Points
Riverman1 05/04/13 - 06:48 pm
0
1

Parnell, but none had to be

Parnell, but none had to be filled. Correct?

Parnell S
64
Points
Parnell S 05/04/13 - 08:09 pm
1
0

Riverman1

So if there was an incident in which these air packs were used they legally could not fill and use them. So what would they use for the next call? Typically a department the size of AFD can at any given time have as many as 3 working structure fires during a 12 hour period. If their SOPs are written correctly the air packs should be worn and used on any incident which has smoke (vehicle fires especially).
Lots ask a few questions:
Has this ever happened before?
If the answer is no then what was different this time?
If the answer is yes then why wasn't the problem addressed?
Most departments use a system in which a certain amount of bottles are removed from service and tested. Then the test are done a different intervals so that all are not due at one time.

Parnell S
64
Points
Parnell S 05/04/13 - 08:24 pm
0
0

Simply stated it is not

Simply stated it is not normally left up to the driver of the apparatus to keep up with the test requirements. Who ever handles maintenance typically has this sent up on a schedule. Probably the company that test the cylinders will keep track of this also.
Do the drivers keep track of when the pumps and ladders are rested?
Who tracks the protective clothing annual inspections?
Let me ask something. On the interview shown on WJBF there was something mentioned about a brief e mail. Did the e mail state that the test dates were nearing expiration? Just how much needs to be stated to get attention? Help I have been shot. Short but this says a lot doesn't it?

texsmoke
139
Points
texsmoke 05/04/13 - 09:41 pm
1
0

Incompetent

You have an incompetent chief you get these results. Seriously explain how a stamped in expiration could wash away. Bless our firefighters but this guy needs to go

Darby
19139
Points
Darby 05/05/13 - 02:22 pm
1
0

Life is just one long series of learning

experiences. Let's just withhold judgment and watch closely to be sure that, in this case, everyone involved has benefited.

Parnell S
64
Points
Parnell S 05/05/13 - 10:10 pm
0
0

Time to move on

Hopefully lessons have been learned. Time to move on.

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