"Call Us Back if You See a Fire…."
THE DENVER, COLORADO, FIRE DEPARTMENT is in damage-control after a call-taker in the emergency dispatch center decided to disregard a 9-1-1 call for a "smell of smoke" in a neighborhood. When the fire creating the smokey smell in a vacant house broke through sending flames skyward, calls started pouring in to the dispatchers and they had no choice then but to dispatch it.
KMGH-TV relates the first caller's story:
Denver resident Torry Hughes told 7NEWS he received a call from his adult son around 4 a.m. The son, who lives a block away from Hughes, told him that he was getting ready for work when he smelled smoke in the neighborhood.
Hughes said he went out to walk the dog around 5:30 a.m. when he, too, smelled the smoke. He said it was dark so he couldn't see it.
"I smelled this heavy smoke. It smelled like something burning and I knew it was not a fireplace… It smelled like a house burning, so I immediately went and called the fire department," Hughes said.
He said he told the fire dispatcher that he smelled a house burning but he didn't know where it (was) coming from.
"He told me I was the only one that had called and that they got no other calls and if I saw anything like a fire to call back," Hughes said.
It was around 7 am after daylight when people in the neighborhood noticed the fire and started calling it in. When the FD arrived they found a single-family dwelling fully involved. The house had been vacant since it had been foreclosed by a mortgage-holder, however that had been only a few days ago.
Lt. Phil Champagne, a Denver Fire Department spokesman, told Ch. 9 News "There is an investigation underway to determine the cause of the fire and also whether firefighters should have been dispatched after the 5:30 a.m. call." Champaign says the caller could not identify where the smoke was coming from. "In our defense, we get a lot of those calls," Champaign said. "It's discretionary whether we send a truck."
"Had firefighters been dispatched, it is uncertain if they would have located the building anyway," Champaign said.
Channel 9 also filed this video report:
The DFD announced that a thorough investigation will be held and corrective actions will be taken. Interestingly, the FD spokesman also told the press that the dispatchers normally decline to dispatch fire units on about 10% of their call-ins.
KMGH-TV has more information HERE.
Firegeezer interrupts with a comment: When I was on the job, if we could smell smoke or something burning, we NEVER left until we found out where it was coming from. To brush somebody off because there was only one call (at 5 am!!) is simply inexcusable. An engine should have been sent.
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