Staffing Now At Center Of Columbus Georgia Criminal Probe

Additional details are emerging about the police investigation of the Columbus Fire & EMS that we posted about last week. It appears the primary focus of the investigation relates to the staffing level of the first in engine at a fatal daycare fire in 2010, and whether documents were either falsified or removed.

The fire occurred on February 26, 2010, and claimed the life of 23-month-old Michael Dubard. Firefighters made numerous heroic rescues of other children during the blaze. A total of nine children were in the day care at the time of the fire, which was only allowed to care for six under state law.

The first arriving apparatus, Engine 7, was supposed to be staffed with five firefighters, but responded to fire with only three members. The reason for the discrepancy appears to be at the heart of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)’s  search.

An internal Columbus Fire & EMS investigation concluded Engine 7 was missing two firefighters because the lieutenant was out with an injury, and minutes before the fire a battalion chief picked up a crew member to take him for a random drug test.

However, the GBI’s search warrant affidavit alleges that Engine 7 was understaffed because both missing firefighters had been taken for drug testing. The affidavit claims that fire department records were altered to show that only one was being drug-tested, while the second was out sick.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • What a sad mess.

  • Andrew

    This looks like it has the potential to get really nasty, if the allegations of falsified records are proven.

    Losing any life at a fire is tragic, but it’s even more so when the fatality is a child.

    And as the mother pointed out (in effect), things happen that we can’t always control, but to (apparently) try to cover up a glaring mistake by fiddling records… well, that’s just going too damned far.

    As folks said after Watergate, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. Citizens, I think, would be willing to forgive the FD brass for an error in judgment, knowing that all of us — even chiefs — are only human. Heck, the child’s mother said as much herself.

    But attempting to cover-up an honest mistake by creating false records? THAT is unforgivable.

  • What is kind of strange to me is there does not appear to have been any civil suits filed after the fire. I would think there wold have been something filed against the daycare at a minimum, but I could not find a thing.

    • Andrew

      I believe the news story indicated a settlement by the insurance company.


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