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Chief adds new policies for Augusta Fire Department

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:24 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The work starts now to create new policies and procedures for Augusta’s firefighters.

Fire Chief Antonio Burden has announced he’s bringing in a private company to help create a whole new manual for the department.

It comes after our I-Team first started asking questions last summer about how Nichoel Gaither died.

She’s the Augusta woman who died waiting on firefighters, who were standing right outside her door, but wouldn’t go in without a sheriff’s deputy, per their policy.

The entire department agrees that it’s time to make changes.

In commission, Burden shared a firefighter survey done as a part of his comprehensive policy assessment.

Ninety-nine percent of all firefighters who participated in the survey said they felt the policies needed to be revised.

Eight months after a controversial hiring process, Burden is making big steps toward improvement.

“What he has done so far, is brilliant, truly, I believe out of from what we had even anticipated,” said John Clarke, Augusta Commission member for District 10.

Aaron Groenenboom, Augusta professional firefighters association vice president, said: “It’s just nice to see somebody taking an interest in, what we feel like is important to us.”

Augusta Professional Firefighters Association says issues with morale and leadership have also gotten much better. They’re optimistic about the direction the fire department is going.

“Opposing statements, unclear policy, overlapping policy, all of this creates confusion for our firefighters both in the station and out on emergencies,” said Burden.

Only 61 percent of firefighters surveyed said they mostly or moderately understand department policies and 85 percent said the policy inhibits their job.

Groenenboom said: “We’ve known for some time that our policies are, they’re convoluted, they’re contradictory, confusing. and when you don’t have consistency, you get inconsistent results.”

Inconsistent results that could and have cost lives.

Clarke said: “It’s a thing that it takes a little bit of time to get to and what he has done so far, is brilliant.”

Burden is seeking the help of a private firm to help revise the policy. Working with the company to revise the policy could take 6 to 8 months, but he says he’s ready to get started right away.

Groenenboom said: “In the long run, that type of stuff is what’s going to help us provide a better service.”

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