News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Two Augusta firefighters are struggling to support their families after they say they were wrongfully terminated by the city. After months of taking their concerns to the city, they took them to the public on Tuesday.
Nick Prokosa says he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a firefighter.
"In grade school, I got to shoot the fire hose and it was the first station I worked at when I came on this department," he said.
He worked for the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department for five years until, "I was hurt on March 2, 2011, by carrying an EMS patient from the house."
A year and a half later, he still can't go back to work.
"I would go back today if I could," he said with tears in his eyes. "But because of my injuries, I can't."
Now, the city has let him go. It's a decision Prokosa says he doesn't understand.
"I did everything I ever possibly could because I enjoyed doing what I did, and now I'm just a piece of trash and nobody's out there to help us either," he said.
Another firefighter is going through a similar situation.
"As we progressed into the room, the floor gave way, and I fell through the floor," said Nick Lynn, who was injured in October 2011.
On Dec. 7, 2012, he was let go as well.
"We've helped people and saved lives and protected people's property," Lynn said. "At least for me, and I get injured, and now I'm being thrown out."
After months of trying to talk to the city and save their jobs, they're making their fight public. On Tuesday they sat in front of the municipal building asking for your help.
"Even since day one, there's been no response, no correspondence from their end," Lynn said.
Michael Blanchard, interim director of Human Resources, responded.
"Admittedly, and this is in an email, we perhaps have not responded as quickly as we should have, but that doesn't change the fact that the policy is being followed," he said.
Blanchard said the policy states that after a year, they look at the injured employee and the possibility of returning to work within three months.
"Since in both of these cases it is indefinite or uncertain when the employee would be able to respond," Blanchard said, "unfortunately, that kinda forced the city's hand to make a decision."
At the end of the day these are two positions they can't wait any longer to fill.
"[We need a firefighter] who's gonna be there, who can save the life of somebody's wife or somebody's child or somebody's husband and we can't fill positions for firefighters if they're taken up with the guys who are not working," Blanchard said.
Prokosa applied for an appeal Tuesday but was denied.
Blanchard says the law department is handling everything related to appeals.