Carrollton officials have met following Monday night’s special called meeting to discuss the “very serious” complaints and questions from several residents in support of the city’s firefighters.
Officials have created a plan to address those concerns and to ensure the Carrollton Fire Department is leading the charge in career progression as well as health and safety.
The residents, including relatives and friends of city firefighters, who addressed the mayor and council on Monday night complained that the firefighters work long hours in a high-risk job with little compensation. One of the speakers is a Carrollton resident who is employed by the Atlanta Metro Fire Department.
The advocates questioned city officials on Carrollton’s stance with Georgia House Bill 146, which requires fire departments to purchase and maintain certain insurance for firefighters. They were prompted to speak following a previous meeting of the City Council when it was said that more than 50 percent of local firefighters work 2,900 hours per year with a starting salary of $35,000, and have second jobs.
Since Monday’s meeting, Councilman Rory Wojcik, Fire Chief Jimmy Bearden, and City Manager Tim Grizzard have met to create a plan for the department.
Wojcik said that the Carrollton Fire Department has a long history of safe, efficient and effective operation but during the July 10 meeting, some very serious accusations were made by individuals during the public comment portion. He said the comments included accusations of deficiencies in life safety measures and equipment for city employees.
“Firefighter safety, equipment, and proper training are our priorities. Our staffing, training and equipment exceeds that of most fire departments,” said Wojcik. “Our fire department has had a steady growth and improvement plan for the last 27 years and we continue to expand and improve today. We have steadily progressed from a small-town fire department in the 1980s with an ISO Rating of Class 6, to the very best ISO rating of Class 1 last year, making us one of the top-rated fire departments in the nation. ... We have a great team, and our success as a department speaks for itself.”
Only 19 departments across Georgia carry the Class 1 ISO designation that significantly reduces property owner insurance for citizens. Additionally, over the past 25 years, officials said the Carrollton Fire Department has added many services including the Emergency Medical Response and Hazardous Materials Team.
Wojcik said that four primary areas were discussed during the meeting with the fire chief and city manager.
They consisted of enhanced opportunities for promotion, which would include additional firefighter II (Engineer) positions, additional lieutenant positions and possibly new captain positions. This change would create opportunities for some of the lower level firefighters to be promoted.
There is also a consideration for the city to pay for additional certifications even though there are certifications that many of the firefighters have achieved that are the equivalent of several years of college. It is hoped that this proposal would reward and incentivize the pursuit of this additional education, training and professional development.
Enhanced equipment and physical/agility standards and testing were also discussed.
“The Carrollton Fire Department has some of the very best equipment as is evident of the current ISO 1 rating,” said Wojcik. “Our recommendation, with Jimmy Bearden’s expertise, is that we implement further safety enhancements including Nomex uniforms which promotes firefighter safety. In regards to physical/agility standards and testing, firefighting is an inherently dangerous job. Our firefighters must undergo yearly physical and agility testing to ensure they are fully capable of the job.
“We also want to look at similar program enhancements and opportunity with the police department. The city of Carrollton’s public safety staff is one of our greatest assets. We need to incentivize and reward our quality staff for furthering their education in their career paths in order to retain the very best. It is extremely important to maintain the health and safety of our staff, and we will continue to assess and progress in this arena.”