Burning questions: Homeowner claims dispatch simmered as kitchen went up in smoke

By BY RECARDO THOMAS STAFF REPORTER,

A Lee Street resident said it took two calls to 911 before firefighters were dispatched when her house caught fire on Tuesday.

Resident Flora Jimison said, “I called 911. I told them I wanted the fire department. The woman put me on hold. She didn’t come back to me, but I could hear her talking in the background and she continued to talk.”

Jimison said she wasn’t sure of how long the first call lasted, but she eventually ended it and tried again. “I hung up, I called back after waiting awhile and I said, ‘I asked for 911, I need the fire department, my house...”

The distraught homeowner said she heard sirens soon after the second call was made.

When E-911 Director John Thompson was notified of the homeowner’s complaint, Thompson said he communicated with the E-911 dispatchers and they denied that two calls came in.

He said the dispatchers followed protocol for that single communication.

However, a supplied screenshot of the woman’s cell phone clearly shows two calls being made to 911. The first one at 2:58 p.m., which lasted three minutes and a second call at 3:02 p.m. that lasted only 49 seconds.

On Wednesday, Thompson said his system showed only one call, and he played back the audio from that call for The E-T.

In it, the woman can be heard stating that she had been on hold and that her kitchen was on fire.

The voice was clearly in distress, because she had to repeat the address a second time for clarity.

Most of the damage to Jimison’s home was centralized in the kitchen area.

Jimison said she was cooking when the fire broke out.

Her kitchen suffered fire and water damage, plus there is smoke damage throughout the house.

By the time firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to her attic and firefighters at the scene said if they had gotten the call sooner, it could have meant the difference between minor and medium damage.

Currently all Emergency 911 calls are routed to the E-911 operators located in the sheriff’s department and handed off to the various emergency responders.

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