Firefighters left without knocking on door at fatal Dunwoody blaze
DeKalb firefighters left the scene of a fatal Dunwoody house fire Sunday without knocking on the door or checking the address, investigators say in a report released this afternoon.
Four officers — Fire Apparatus Operator William Greene, Capt. Tony L. Motes, Capt. Sell Caldwell, and Battalion Chief Lesley Clark — remain on paid leave while the investigation is ongoing.
The body of Ann Bartlett, 74, was found after the home burned to the ground Sunday. Fire equipment had responded to an emergency call early that morning, but saw no fire and left. By the time a second call came in five hours later, the home was engulfed in flames.
Bartlett called 911 at 1:03 a.m. Sunday to report she had set her house on fire with the “thing for my nose,” according to the investigative report. The 911 operator told Bartlett to leave the house, the report said, but the older woman apparently misunderstood.
Firefighters arrived at Bartlett’s street at 1:15 a.m. They couldn’t find her street number, investigators found, so they drove slowly around her cul-de-sac and neighboring streets looking for a fire. When they couldn’t find one, they went back to their stations.
Investigators said the address for Bartlett’s home was not visible from the street. House numbers on either side were visible, though, which “should have provided a clue of the location of 1687 Houghton Court North.”
But no one walked up her driveway to verify her address or knock on the door.
In addition, responding fire officials did not establish proper “incident command” at the scene, so no one was really in charge of deciding how the call would be handled when the address could not be found.
DeKalb County officials are working “as quickly as possible” to sort out responsibility for the bungled response to the 911 call, county spokesman Sheila Edwards said.
“We just got the report last night, we briefed the family this morning … and there were subsequent meetings with Human Resources in order to determine what the appropriate punishment is.”