In a recent update provided on Monday, October 23, 2023, Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith confirmed the temporary closure of three local fire stations.
The reason cited was a shortage of essential equipment and personnel.
Chief Smith mentioned: “The reality is that we are not in a dire space right now. However, our reserve fleet, which is the core of any fleet, is in trouble, and we’re working to replace it.”
The impacted stations are:
City Councilmember Dustin Hillis provided a stark perspective on the current state of the Atlanta Fire fleet during an interview with Atlanta News First: “The AFRD fleet is in shambles.
“We don’t have the reserves to backfill any of these issues and trucks are down.
“So I am very worried about the safety of Atlantans, our visitors, our citizens, and it truly does keep me up at night.
“I have nightmares about situations where a fire truck or fire engine isn’t coming to save people’s lives.”
Councilmember Hillis is leading an initiative to augment the number of engines and trucks for Atlanta Fire.
Providing assurance to the residents, Chief Smith shared: “When we close stations temporarily, we try and make sure the territories are not contiguous.
“It’s an overlapping response but we make sure we get to the needs of the citizens in a timely manner.”
At present, eight fire engines and nine ladder trucks are unavailable due to mechanical failures.
Chief Smith emphasized that even if a fire incident occurs near one of the temporarily closed stations, the public should remain assured that support is en route: “It’s almost like a swarming effect. They’re still coming,” he commented during a meeting with the Council’s Public Safety committee.
Hillis, in collaboration with the Atlanta City Council, is recommending a $16.4 million investment. This will be used to procure 12 engines/pumpers, two truck-drawn aerial fire trucks, a new tower/platform truck, and three battalion/division chief vehicles.
Chief Smith noted: “The goal is to aggressively order as much equipment as possible, but we have to figure out the funding.”
A proposal, backed by all fifteen councilmembers, will be reviewed by the Council’s Finance Executive Committee soon.
Following its approval, the proposal will be presented for a comprehensive council vote the upcoming Monday.
Further, Chief Smith informed Atlanta News First that outside the Council’s proposal, the department is waiting for the arrival of 11 fire vehicles.
These are delayed due to manufacturing setbacks. He stated: “The major manufacturers… are estimating a delivery date of 36 months from the point of receiving a purchase order.
“So any action we take right now, they’re not going to be any immediate changes, but we’ll continue to do our job and do what we do for the citizens.”
Hillis attributed the current crisis to years of neglect in strengthening the department’s reserve fleet.
He highlighted that the average year model of engines in the fleet is 2014, while other departments in the southeast have an average of the 2018 model.
The recent closures of Atlanta fire stations due to equipment and staff shortages underline a pressing concern for the safety and security of Atlanta’s residents and visitors.
While the temporary shutdowns are concerning, the proactive steps taken by the City Council and the Atlanta Fire Chief’s assurance offer a glimmer of hope.
Investing in modern equipment and enhancing the reserve fleet are crucial steps towards restoring public confidence and ensuring timely response to emergencies.
The prolonged waiting time for vehicle deliveries, attributed to manufacturing delays, underscores the broader challenges industries face today, emphasizing the need for strategic planning and forward-thinking.