Cover-Up Probed in Georgia Fatal Fire

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. --

 

CBS Atlanta News has more tough questions about a deadly fire in Dunwoody in late January. CBS Atlanta requested thousands of pages detailing the inside workings of DeKalb County, from personnel files of firefighters fired to county e-mails exchanged between CEO Burrell Ellis, Fire Chief David Foster and Public Safety Director William Miller.

The inside e-mails obtained by CBS Atlanta News reveal what DeKalb County officials knew and when.

January 24th, the morning of the deadly fire at Ann Bartlett's home, then Fire Chief Foster contacted Director Miller at 7:29 a.m. alerting him about the fire. About an hour later, another e-mail went out, “You need to call me. re: this fire," wrote Foster.

Just three hours later, another e-mail from Foster to Miller, "Fire rescue investigators need direction from you regarding notifying the victims family regarding our first response to the house."

By this time, tough questions were being raised about DeKalb County fire departments response to the raging fire. Bartlett, 74, first called 911 around 1 a.m. Fire trucks arrived minutes later, but when they didn't see smoke, not a single firefighter went up to the home to see if she was OK. Home video shot captured what fire crews saw when they arrived back at the scene hours later. The home was engulfed in flames. Barlett didn't survive.

Later that day, another e-mail exchange shows Chief Foster and Director Miller decided to meet. A later e-mail went out about a news story that ran, and then the two decide to meet again in Chief Foster’s truck after Foster sent this, "I am concerned anything we may say to this family may create liability later."

CBS Atlanta News asks, does the e-mail indicate the county knew just hours after the deadly fire, that a deadly mistake was made, and feared the county could be sued because of it?

Five days after the fire, the fire chief wrote an e-mail to CEO Ellis, "This morning we will meet with the family of a citizen who died in a fire. Fire rescue crews did not follow department guidelines because of lack of discipline."

The next day, four firefighters were fired, then the fire chief resigned, and later a fifth firefighter lost his job.

CBS Atlanta has even more e-mail exchanges shows a tense relationship for months between the fire chief and CEO. CBS Atlanta contacted CEO Ellis' office Monday for a comment about, but we did not receive a response.

 

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