Atlanta temporarily closes 3 fire stations amid truck, firefighter shortages


ATLANTA (AP) — The city of Atlanta has temporarily closed three of its more than 30 fire stations because of truck breakdowns and a shortage of firefighters.

Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Roderick Smith told a City Council committee of the closures on Monday.

Smith told the committee that the department had 17 fire trucks out of service on Monday, including eight of 31 fire engines and nine of 15 ladder trucks. Many of the trucks are being repaired, but those repairs can take months.

Some other trucks, while still running, don't have their full capabilities.

“Right now I think we’re down to two or three fully operational ladder trucks in the whole city,” said Dustin Hillis, chair of the council's Public Safety Committee.

While Hillis described the fire truck fleet as being "in shambles," Smith told council members the situation while serious, is “not in a dire space right now.” He said the city is working to replace its reserve fleet.

Firefighters have seen the number of emergency calls double compared to last year, Smith said. Most calls are for emergency medical service.

The chief said Atlanta has 11 fire vehicles that have been ordered but not delivered because of manufacturing backlogs. Some of those trucks could be delivered by the end of the month.

Council members are considering a proposal to spend $16.4 million to buy 12 more fire engines, two ladder trucks, a platform truck and three other vehicles. But Smith said new orders of specialized equipment may not be delivered for as long as three years.

“The goal is to aggressively order as much equipment as possible, but we have to figure out the funding,” he said.

Smith told WANF-TV that the department will continue to close different stations to offset the equipment shortage.

“I have nightmares about situations where a fire truck or fire engine isn’t coming to save people’s lives," said Hillis, who said he believes the city needs to spend $12 million a year for each of the next three years on fire trucks.