071421_MNS_fire_truck Engine 26 on fire

Atlanta Fire Rescue Engine 26 caught fire while returning from a tune-up at the city fleet maintenance shop in June 2019.

The city of Atlanta is beginning to address problems it’s having with its fire rescue department’s truck fleet and equipment, which are in need of an upgrade.

“Citizens must demand that our tax dollars are spent where they are critically needed,” a man said in a Facebook message that included photos of Atlanta Fire Rescue Engine 26 catching fire while returning from a tune-up at the city fleet maintenance shop in June 2019. “Our fire rescue fleet has critical deficiencies that need to be addressed NOW!!

“It’s two years later and it’s still a struggle and fight to get the oldest of the … oldest worn-out fire apparatuses replaced.”

At its July 6 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Atlanta City Council voted 5-0 to approve its consent agenda, which included legislation to support the city’s plan to buy more fire rescue vehicles and equipment.

It calls for the city to purchase three new tractor-drawn aerial fire truck apparatus and three new 1,500 GPM pumpers in fiscal 2022 and two new tractor-drawn aerial fire truck apparatus and three new 1,500 GPM pumpers in fiscal 2023 (Legislative Reference No. 21-R-3662).

District 9 Councilman Dustin Hillis, who represents part of Buckhead, said in a Facebook message this legislation is separate from the one he authored to address the issue, adding it only supports the city’s upgrade strategy but doesn’t “authorize any purchases.”

He added his legislation, which was co-sponsored by 11 other council members, was held in the council’s finance/executive committee but should be heard by that committee at its July 14 meeting before going before the full council later this summer.

In a June 22 Facebook message, Hillis provided more info on the legislation he presented at that day’s council meeting. It calls for pulling $7 million from the city’s reserve fund to the fire rescue department to buy five new tractor-drawn aerial (TDA) fire trucks.

“While I don’t like taking money from reserves to cover what should be standard purchases over many years, there have not been any TDA fire truck purchases in over five years, leaving the city with the whole frontline fleet over 5 years old, with every reserve truck 20 years old,” he said. “These issues have been documented for many months, increasing in severity from having 2-3 stations without ladder trucks to now some days with 4-5 trucks down, leaving large gaps in coverage and reassignments of functioning trucks to other parts of the city.

“This is an emergency, and the regular 2021 order going out only included one TDA fire truck (as well as five fire engines on the revised order, which we are in need of as well). It’s past time we fill this gap and eliminate days when we have so many trucks down and large sections of the city without appropriate fire coverage.”

A voicemail message left with Hillis’ cell phone seeking further comment and information was not immediately returned.

In response to the council’s vote, the city of Atlanta tweeted, “The @ATLFireRescue Chief Roderick Smith stated, ‘This legislation demonstrates the ongoing support we have received from the Mayor @KeishaBottoms administration.’”

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In related public safety news, the council approved three citywide resolutions. The first two allowed for the city to accept the donation of 10 2021 Ford Explorers, valued at about $579,929 (Legislative Reference No. 21-R-3654), and a 2020 Ford Transit Van valued at $38,250 (Legislative Reference No. 21-R-3655), both from the Atlanta Police Foundation for the Atlanta Police Department. The van will be used as an extra police vehicle for the Police Athletic League (PAL)/COPS/At-Promise Centers.

The third resolution calls for requesting the Georgia General Assembly to change the state law to add all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to the list of vehicles requiring registration and licensing. ATVs have been involved in some crimes lately, causing more concern for the police.

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