ATLANTA, GA (ABC News) — An Atlanta firefighter was suspended without pay for reportedly breaking protocol when he went into a burning home to save a 95-year-old woman.
Yet questions around what exactly led to the suspension remain, and whether or not policies were in fact breached.
Capt. Daniel Dwyer, a 15-year veteran with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, responded to a fire on Collier Drive on June 27, 2019, according to a copy of the complaint against him signed by Fire Chief Randall Slaughter last week and obtained by ABC News Wednesday.
The complaint states that Dwyer broke policy by entering the home “without your crew members, which is in immediate conflict with no freelancing, accountability and maintaining crew integrity.”
A video of the incident, also obtained by ABC News, shows the house engulfed in flames. The actual sequence of events at the fire is unclear, including the actions of the first responders before the video begins, but the footage shows multiple firefighters at the scene and one pulling what appears to be a person out of the house.
Sgt. Cortez Stafford, a spokesman for the fire department, told ABC News while he had not seen the complaint, he was under the impression that Dwyer entered the home on his own.
“We have a policy that states that for firefighters making an entry or making a rescue, they need to make sure that they’re with the crew if something goes wrong,” Stafford said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Apparently that didn’t happen in this instance.”
But Paul Gerdis, the president of Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters, the local branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters union, disagreed.
Gerdis told ABC News Dwyer entered the home with two other crew members. Those two firefighters were trying to suppress the flames while Dwyer conducted a search of the first floor, according to Gerdis.
Dwyer successfully located the woman and pulled her out, but she later died from her injuries, according to Gerdis.
Gerdis called Dwyer’s suspension “absolutely odd.” Stafford said in his 14 years with the department, he could not recall a similar suspension.
Gerdis said that while policies are always in place, those are meant to protect the firefighters.
“It goes against the American Fire Service to punish firefighters for acts of valor,” Gerdis said. “When a citizen’s life is on the line, safety protocols for the firefighters need to be set aside.”
When reached by ABC News, Dwyer said he could not comment because he is appealing his suspension.
Dwyer will be suspended without pay on Thursday and Sunday, considering firefighters work 24-hour shifts, according to a copy of the complaint.
Gerdis noted that while the department was investigating Dwyer’s actions, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain and now works in the firehouse nearest the home where the incident happened.
“He’s got to live with the guilt of not being able to rescue this homeowner, and now he’s facing the 48 hours without pay after being put into the territory of this homeowner,” Gerdis said.