Augusta firefighters say oxygen tanks aren't being properly inspected

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News 12 First at Five / Thursday, May 2, 2013

Augusta fire department

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's a critical tool firefighters use to be able to breathe inside a burning building. The Augusta Firefighters Association says oxygen tanks aren't being properly inspected and it could put them in danger.

Richmond County Fire Sgt. Walt Joneski does a lot of checking. He looks at the ladders, the hoses and other tools.

"I need to check the pump," Joneski said.

The Augusta Firefighters Association president says no one is checking air bottles. Firefighters use them to breathe inside a burning building.

"I can tell you it's a huge blunder on somebody's fault. It's not the firefighters' fault," said Augusta Professional Firefighters President Charles Masters.

The bottles expire every five years and did so on April 30. Richmond County Fire Chief Chris James says they are being tested now. He also went and borrowed 50 bottles from Fort Gordon just in case of an emergency.

"We are just swapping the bottles out and getting them tested. At no time will a firefighter not have a bottle they can not use," James said.

"His front door says Fire Chief James and that's where the buck stops," Masters said.

It could be a life or death situation when firefighters are called out. Masters says that's why it's important to make sure their equipment is checked properly.

"These bottles are our lifeline. It's what we depend on to breathe and without those, we can't do our job," Masters said.

"This testing process takes no longer than a week. Firefighters will still train," James said.

He said next time, he'll try and be more proactive.

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