Fire chief tells about wrecked trucks, future of first response

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 2:57 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta leaders on Tuesday learned more about two firetrucks that recently wrecked, plus learned a little bit about the future of first response.

Fire Chief Antonio Burden delivered the information during a committee meeting of the Augusta Commission.

The wrecked trucks may not be usable due to damage from the wrecks, and leaders don’t have an estimate yet on how much repairs or loss of the trucks would cost.

Burden said both drivers were tested for drugs and alcohol within at least 32 hours after the accident, and to be a driver, you need at least 80 hours of training before getting behind the wheel.


Burden says officials are still investigating whether the wrecks – within a week of one another and both blamed on “locked up” brakes – are due to human error or equipment failure.

The most recent incident happened just before 9:30 p.m. Jan. 21 on Old Waynesboro Road at Neely Road. Tender 12 and Engine 12 were heading to a call when Tender 12 went off the left side of the road and overturned.

The wreck came just days after another Augusta firetruck overturned Jan. 16 along the on-ramp to westbound Interstate 20 from Washington Road. Ladder Truck 501 rolled over while responding to a commercial fire.

The drivers were both tested for substances.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Burden gave a presentation on so-called quick-response vehicles.

He said the vehicles save 25% on gas compared to later trucks and cost only 10% of what ladder trucks cost.

Burden said the Augusta Fire Department responded to over 26,000 calls last year, 63% of which were medical-related.

He said the vehicles would be a good solution of relief for firetrucks.

He said his agency can typically respond to the scene of medical emergencies faster than the current ambulance provider, Gold Cross. He said the use of quick-response vehicles is a nationwide trend.

Commissioner for District 3 Catherine Smith-McKnight said: “We can’t have accidents. I know we have accidents but going too fast or turning corners or heavy topping the fire trucks is not good. Does not look good. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with the two trucks that are damaged. We’ve got to find out the money source, so that’s where we are. That’s the most important thing.”

Burden says while there isn’t an estimate on how much this accident will cost. He did just tell us his most recent fire truck purchase within the past few months was around $1.6 million.

But prices have gone up since then. We also learned the county is self-insured meaning, there is no insurance policy to foot the bill of a wrecked truck. Augusta Fire Department will have to foot the bill. This was news to the mayor.

Mayor Garnett Johnson said: “I learned today that we are self-insured, which certainly puts us at a disadvantage in it that those trucks are very expensive. Looking at all of the budgeting challenges that we had today, we are actually going to probably have to buy more trucks. That’s a concern of mine on, of course, where do we get that funding from.”