NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Faulty equipment on a New Orleans fire truck caused nearly a five-minute response delay to a scene in Broadmoor on May 27, and the engine was still on the street with the same problem Thursday until FOX 8 started asking why.
A broken hose system that controls the air brakes on Engine 38 leaks, and the compressor needs four to five minutes before the brakes work properly and crews can safely leave the station.
Two houses were destroyed in the Broadmoor fire.
"I was not aware that that truck had issues and was left in service," New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said.
He said he found out about Engine 38's problem after the fire, but when FOX 8 told him Thursday that the same engine was still responding to calls with the same problem, he then took the engine out of service.
"At the end of the day, we take trucks out of service if they're having trouble," he said. "I think it's our job to report it to the mechanics who know how to fix them and so we did. And I will follow up on it."
"Four minutes is critical. Seconds mean life and death in these situations," New Orleans Firefighter Union President Nick Felton said. "They are gambling with the citizens, property and the lives of both our citizens and firefighters by doing this, and I think it's wrong."
Felton said Engine 38's problem has been ongoing for months and the department neglected to fix it sooner. McConnell said spare parts are hard to come by after the engines' manufacturer went out of business and the department is ordering 20 new engines for $10 million to replace depleted engines.
But Felton said neglecting repairs is not the only problem delaying response times. He is concerned that engines run with three firefighters on a truck when the recommended standard is four.
"There's a national standard where there must be two men outside the fire while two fire personnel go into the fire to affect a rescue. That's the minimum," Felton said.
"If you arrive with three and you start laying your lines, the minute that other company hits the scene you're able to go two in and two out," McConnell said.
McConnell does not deny that most engines run with three firefighters at a time, but he said other responding engines help once those trucks arrive.
However, he did admit there are times when crews are waiting for another engine to go into a fire.
"If you have a few companies that are running with three, I expect the officers to make the decision to make sure that firefighters are safe. And when they achieve their two in, two out, they'll make their entry," McConnell said.
Fire crews also complained they've been assigned to help with mosquito abatement as a way to fight Zika. Crews were recently in the Lower Ninth Ward on that assignment when a fire started in the Marigny. Felton believes the response could have been faster if firefighters were at the station.
Chief McConnell disagrees, saying crews were there within five minutes.