A DeKalb County firefighter was forced to jump out of a two-story building after his air pack malfunctioned during a fire.
According to DeKalb County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Norman Augustin, the firefighter was on a call at Woody Court at 9:45 p.m. on June 25.
The fireman “had an issue with his air pack,” Augustin said. “That’s our lifeline in a fire.”
When “he suddenly stopped receiving air, he bailed out of a window,” Augustin said.
The firefighter was taken to an area hospital where he was treated for cuts and minor smoke inhalation and released, Augustin said.
Augustin said the incident was considered serious.
“We’re classifying it as a near miss,” Augustin said. “Thankfully he was not seriously injured,” Augustin said.
Approximately 15-20 percent of the house was burned by the fire, which was quickly stopped in the room in which it started, Augustin said.
Called a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), the air packs are worn by fire rescue personnel to provide breathable air during fires and other emergency situations.
Problems with the air packs came to light earlier this year during the county’s budget process when fire rescue officials said they needed to replace its inventory of 325 SCBAs at a cost of $2 million.
Many of the devices have had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repair because of problems with their quick-release connections for the pressurized air bottles and battery connections, among other problems.
Fire rescue officials said that since 2009 when DeKalb Fire Rescue started using the air packs, there have been numerous potentially dangerous problems.
The devices have malfunctioned during emergencies 29 times, according to fire rescue officials.
“We have numerous kinks [in the devices],” said county fire Chief Eddie O’Brien in February. “A lot of them are potentially catastrophic.”
The county is in the process of writing a request for a proposal to replace the air packs, O’Brien said.
“It’s our top priority,” O’Brien said.
Until the request for proposal passes the purchasing department and Board of Commissioners, certified technicians in the fire rescue department are doing their best to keep the SCBAs in “top shape,” O’Brien said.