Staffing shortages at metro fire department could put the community at risk

COWETA COUNTY, Ga. — A metro Atlanta fire department is in “crisis mode.”

A firefighter at Coweta County Fire & Rescue says staffing shortages could soon put the community at risk.

At least one of the firefighters’ wives went to the county herself to plead with them to hire more firefighters.

While this is a problem at other departments as well, Coweta County firefighters are explicitly calling their situation a crisis.

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In a dramatic moment at a recent Coweta County Commissioners meeting, the wife of a firefighter delivered a dire warning telling commissioners that their lack of action could put the community in danger.

“Have you ever had to call 911 for a serious emergency? Do you have the knowledge and skills to handle that emergency yourself? You might want to brush up on those and your CPR skills and your first aid kits!,” she said.

Coweta County Fire and Rescue told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon that they currently have more than 20 openings.

“We’re in crisis mode. We’re barely keeping the doors open at most stations,” said firefighter and union president Jim Cadenhead.

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Cadenhead says nothing is going to change unless they raise the pay and get better benefits to attract applicants.

To keep the community safe and response times good, the fire chief says crews are working extra shifts.

Cadenhead says that can mean firefighters are sometimes working for up to 72 straight hours, which makes more firefighters quit.

“It’s a huge problem with the overtime, and it’s bringing morale down. It’s causing problems at home, them not being with their families. So a lot of people are just saying I’m done with it, you know?,” Cadenhead said.

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Cobb fire says they are also using overtime to fill slots. 16 firefighters currently have COVID-19 in Cherokee County, causing staffing problems there as well.

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