Twenty-seven Atlanta firefighters called in sick Super Bowl Sunday, contributing to the temporary closure, or brownout, of five fire companies.
"Today is a day that we in the Atlanta Fire Department thought would never happen," said Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who blamed the temporary closures on a combination of staffing reductions, hiring freezes and furloughs.
Cochran said he doesn't believe firefighters called in to make a political statement. He said Super Bowl Sunday and the payday weekend contributed to the higher-than-normal absenteeism rate.
"Some of our members genuinely are sick," said Cochran, who said Sunday's absenteeism almost doubled the normal rate of 13 sick firefighters daily.
Ladder No. 25 (Cascade/Beecher, Southwest), ladder No. 26 (Moores Mill/Howell Mill -- North Buckhead), engine No. 12 (Dekalb Avenue/Little 5 Points), engine No. 30 (Cleveland Avenue/ Lakewood Heights area), engine No. 22 (Bankhead/Hollywood Road, Northwest), engine No. 26 (Moores Mill/Howell Mill -- North Buckhead) and engine No. 36 (Kimberly Road/ Cascade Road, Southwest outside perimeter) were all affected by Sunday's brownout, said Cochran.
"Our goal is not to instill panic, but we are definitely stretched very thin," added Cochran.
"They've done away with overtime necessary to staff on a temporary basis," said Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters Association president Jim Daws.
Daws said Sunday's brownouts compromised the city of Atlanta's hazardous materials and technical rescue response plan. "We're relying on surrounding municipalities to provide hazardous materials protection for the city of Atlanta. That's not satisfactory because I can guarantee you that protecting their own city is more important to the other municipalities than protecting the city of Atlanta," said Daws.
"It's a total failure on the part of the Atlanta government. Taxes in Atlanta are high, and for the city not to be able to provide the most basic public safety services really is pathetic," said Daws.
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