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I-TEAM: Augusta firefighters get new forcible-entry policy

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 9:07 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A new forcible-entry policy is now in effect for Augusta-Richmond County firefighters.

This comes nearly three months after our I-Team exposed how the previous policy prevented firefighters from forcing their way into the home of an Augusta woman while she pleaded for them help.

“What’s the address of your emergency?” said a Gold Cross Dispatcher:

Nichoel Gaither: (heavy breathing) Oh God. I can’t breathe.

Gold Cross Dispatcher: You said you can’t breathe?

Nichoel Gaither: I can’t breathe!

Gold Cross Dispatcher: Okay let me get first responders from Richmond County.

Nichoel Gaither: I live by myself. I don’t know if I can make it to the door.

Gold Cross Dispatcher: Okay if you can’t make it to the front door, they will have to gain entry, OK? They will have to kick your door down.

Our I-Team uncovered they stood outside of her door for 15 minutes waiting on a deputy before going inside. Nichoel Gaither died before firefighters reached her.

The forcible entry policy required deputy to be on scene before entering a home. The previous policy required firefighters to have a deputy on scene before entering a home. Tuesday that policy changed.

“I look forward too presenting a final review to the commission and committee as well as best practices...as part of that review I have institute a new forcible entry policy that is in effect and current as of today,” said Antonio Burden, Augusta fire chief.

According to the chief, the new policy gives firefighters on scene more latitude to take actions they deem appropriate while prioritizing their safety.

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