Atlanta fire chief exposes shoddy training facilities

Atlanta fire chief expressed the need for new training centers around the area.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 12:54 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - In response to criticism over Atlanta’s future Public Safety Training Center, the city’s fire chief took reporters on a tour Monday of some of the dilapidated facilities where for years, new hires have gotten their training.

“It is absolutely embarrassing for us to hire members to come in and say, ‘You’re going to work for the biggest, you’re going to work for the best,’ and to bring them into somewhere like here,’” said Chief Rod Smith of the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department.

Currently, Smith said, Atlanta firefighters get their training in a hodge-podge of places. An abandoned elementary school on Ashwood Avenue served as a firefighter training site for almost 30 years until something in the building was making firefighters so sick, doctors ordered them never to go back in.

To go on the tour, fire officials and journalists wore hazardous materials suits to prevent exposure to potentially toxic materials.

At other locations, they’re using decades-old structures to train to fight modern-day fires. A live-fire training center, for example, on Claire Drive in southwest Atlanta features a concrete tower that’s condemned.

The chief wants the public to know the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center is crucial, not just to law enforcement officers, but to firefighters and paramedics as well.

“What the new training center will provide is the ability to train all of our people in one location,” Smith said. “In addition to that, it will give us modernized training facilities so that we can do our presentations for classroom work as well as the hands-on training that we’ll do at the training tower as well as in the mock city.”

The city’s finance committee is expected to take up a key funding vote on the new training center during Wednesday’s meeting. Atlanta News First has learned protesters are lining up to speak at that meeting, just as they did during last week’s meeting of the full city council.