It was a night Cameron Thayer will likely never forget - the night his neighbor's house went up in flames.
"I could smell the burnt wires and I look out the window and there are fire trucks all the way down the street," said Thayer, a DeKalb County resident.
DeKalb County firefighters controlled the fire quickly, but in the process, one first responder was forced to make a quick escape after his air tank malfunctioned.
"The firefighters were all lined up around here just waiting for the guy to get out. They wanted to make sure he was all safe," Thayer said.
The DeKalb County Fire Department said its Draeger-manufactured air packs have been critically malfunctioning for more than a year, cutting off air to first responders who are battling fires.
Draeger said faulty maintenance is to blame for the problems.
DeKalb County Fire Chief Edwin O'Brien wouldn't go on camera because of what he called potential legal issues. He told CBS Atlanta reporter Bernard Watson over the phone that the packs have been properly maintained, but they keep failing.
In February, the DeKalb County Commission allocated $2 million for new air packs, but O'Brien said they won't be available until late October.
The Tough Question we're asking is: Can firefighters afford to wait that long?
"Our firefighters can't wait, They are risking their lives each and every day. This is something we don't want to take our chances on," said Johnson.
DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said he's going to look into what is taking so long.
"Once we passed the money in February, they should be fitted for their equipment right now," Johnson said.
"It is very important for them to go home and meet with their families, especially after going through this," Thayer said
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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