DeKalb firefighters fired, criminal probe under way

And Dunwoody police have opened a criminal investigation into Sunday's fire, with the help of the DeKalb County District Attorney's office and the DeKalb  Fire and Rescue Department, authorities said Friday.

Ann Bartlett, 74, died when a fire swept through her home in the 1600 block of Houghton Court after firefighters responded to her early morning emergency call and left when they couldn't find a blaze.

Firefighters returned fiver hours later, after a second 911 call from neighbors, to find Bartlett’s house fully engulfed in flames.

Her body was found in the home’s remains after the fire was extinguished.

Acting officer William J. Greene, Capt. Tony L. Motes and Battalion Chiefs Lesley Clark and Bennie J. Paige were fired for “neglect of duty” following an investigation into fire response time in the Jan. 24 fire.

Clark, Greene and Motes, along with another DeKalb County Fire and Rescue officer, Capt. Sell Caldwell, were placed on administrative leave with pay Monday, as the department conducted an internal investigation.

Dunwoody police spokesman Sgt. Mike Carlson said officers were dispatched -- as per department routine -- to Bartlett's address six minutes after firefighters, who were sent out at 1:05 a.m. But the officers returned to their patrol when firefighters said there was no fire.

"Two Dunwoody Police officers arrived on the scene and found several DeKalb County Fire Department vehicles preparing to leave," Carlson said. "The Dunwoody Police officers were advised by a firefighter from Ladder 18 that they could not locate any fire and were going back in service."

Carlson said police typically conduct criminal investigations of any death reported in Dunwoody, but could provide no further details because the investigation was open.

In her 911 call, made at 1:03 a.m. Sunday, Bartlett said, "I set the house on fire with the thing from my nose," referring to the oxygen concentrator she used when she slept.

Wednesday night, the fire department completed an internal investigation of its response to the fatal fire that said Greene, Motes, Caldwell and Clark "failed to establish incident command as required by departmental guidelines."

Seeing no signs of fire when they initially arrived on the scene at 1:15 a.m., firefighters drove around the cul-de-sac without getting out of the fire engine or walking up to the home to investigate.

Bartlett's family believes she would still be alive had firefighters done their jobs.

Although county officials offered a public apology Thursday to Bartlett's family, daughter Ruth Bartlett said she wanted individual apologies from the firefighters involved.

"We would've liked an apology, but we don't wish them any ill will," she told the AJC Friday night. "We fell the worse about this. The four of them are probably the next in line in that respect. I'm sure they wished that they'd gone up that hill."

The investigation continues, county officials said.

Return to AJC.com for more updates.

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