Five Georgia Firefighters Fired for Deadly Response

DUNWOODY, Ga. --

 

DeKalb County fired a fifth firefighter Wednesday in connection with the recent deadly house fire in Dunwoody.

Capt. Sell Caldwell's termination was effective immediately, officials said in a statement.

Fire Apparatus Officer William Greene, Capt.Tony Motes, Battalion Chief Lesley Clark and Battalion Chief Bennie Paige were let go last week.

"The officers on the scene did not establish command and they didn't follow department policy," said William "Wiz" Miller, DeKalb County Public Safety Director, in announcing the firings.

Paige was acting as shift commander that night.

"I feel very responsible for this and take these matters very seriously, especially when there is injury or loss of life," said Miller...

The attorney for the family declined to comment on the firings. He said the family is focusing on healing. They are still considering a civil lawsuit.

Neighbors CBS Atlanta spoke with said they were glad the four firefighters were fired and hoped it provided some peace for the family.

The investigation report shows Ann Bartlett, 74, called 911 just after 1 a.m. to report a fire in her Dunwoody home.

Bartlett, 74, was found dead five hours later in the garage of her burned-out home.

CBS Atlanta asked the public safety director Friday if the firefighters would issue an apology.

"I don't think it's in my ability to do that," said Miller. "They should want to apologize themselves."

CBS Atlanta obtained a copy of Bartlett's 911 call. After listening to it, News Director Steve Schwaid said he feels it is not necessary for our viewers to hear the last woman's final moments. The family also requested that CBS Atlanta not play it, and the station is honoring their request.

Bartlett's family members said Bartlett used an oxygen concentrator to help her breathe. According to DeKalb County records, she called 911 and told the dispatcher she had accidentally set her house on fire with the "thing for my nose." She gave her address and the line went dead.

Records show the dispatcher immediately sent seven emergency vehicles to the home. When the first three trucks arrived, firefighters saw no signs of a fire and left. An internal investigation found that against department protocol, none of the firefighters established command of the incident, and not a single firefighter as much as walked up the driveway to investigate.

Only two firefighters even got out of their vehicles, and that was to spot the truck as it backed up to leave.

Five hours later, when neighbors saw the flames, it was too late. Four firefighters are now on paid administrative leave: Sell Caldwell, Tony Motes, William Greene and Lesley Clark.

DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Flemming issued a statement saying that county police investigators are looking into whether a crime was committed. She said she will review their findings and then determine how to proceed. Dunwoody police are also conducting an investigation.

CBS Atlanta's Michelle Marsh asked State Fire Commissioner John Oxendine about the state's protocol for firefighters responding to a fire call.

Oxendine said, "At the bare minimum they would have to do a thorough perimeter check."

Oxendine said if a firefighter didn't leave his fire truck, that would be considered a violation of the training standards.

A spokesperson for DeKalb County said proper training is not the issue. She said some of the firefighters involved were retrained as recently as last month.

Copyright 2010 by cbsatlanta.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Loading