Union urges Atlanta to hire more firefighters to fill shortage

A union leader who represents firefighters urges the Atlanta fire chief to take immediate action to increase staffing.

Paul Gerdis says the national standard to protect citizens is to have four personnel on the engines and trucks.

Too often, according to Gerdis, the city is able to place just three firefighters per apparatus.

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And firefighters grew even more concerned as information spread that at one firehouse, just two firefighters were available to provide coverage on an engine.

"That's correct," Gerdis said. "We did not have the staffing and the captain was instructed to drive the engine."

In the short term, efforts by the department to graduate new recruits were hurt by COVID-19. Some of the in-person training had to be delayed.

But long-term, Gerdis suggests the city implement a lateral hiring program whereby experienced firefighters be brought over and undergo a reduced training regimen.

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Chief Randall Slaughter doesn't agree. He says there is "specific" training all Atlanta firefighters must get before they are put on an Atlanta engine.

When the department is short on a given shift, dispatchers send extra equipment from the nearest available firehouse to a scene. That is done to get additional personnel to an incident.

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