An apology. Simply put, that is what the family of an elderly woman who died in a Dunwoody house fire early Sunday morning is asking for from DeKalb county and fire department officials.
Ann Bartlett, 74, died in a fire at a home in the 1600 block of Houghton Court North. Firefighters arrived at the home 12 minutes after Bartlett called to report the fire, but left when they saw no signs of a blaze.
Five hours later, after a neighbor called, firefighters returned to find the home completely engulfed in flames. Bartlett was found dead in the garage.
Four fire department officers are now on administrative leave. Monday night, county Public Safety Director William “Wiz” Miller placed acting Officer in Charge William Greene, Capt. Tony L. Motes, Capt. Sell Caldwell, and Battalion Chief Lesley Clark on leave with pay.
An investigation the department’s response to the fatal fire was launched earlier this week. Sheila Edwards, spokeswoman from the CEO's office, told the AJC the investigation was completed Wednesday night and submitted to the family in a meeting with officials Thursday morning.
In the report DeKalb officials said Greene, Motes, Caldwell and Clark "failed to establish incident command as required by Departmental Guidelines."
"We are waiting for the fire chief and the public safety director to come back with a final decision on punishment," she said.
“They violated their own policy,” said Pitts Carr, the family attorney and spokesman. “Their own standard procedure when responding to a 911 call is to do a full investigation of the premises, to exhaust everything you can do.”
According to the report, officers arrived to the scene at around 1:15 a.m., 12 minutes after Bartlett called 911 saying, “I set the house on fire with the thing from my nose.”
Bartlett was referring to an oxygen concentrator she used when she slept, said one of her daughters, Linda Bartlett Marett.
"It was not an oxygen tank," Marett said. It is used to create oxygen to help with her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Officers report they found no signs of a fire when they first arrived. They drove around the cul-de-sac, slowly, but no one exited the engine or walked up the driveway to investigate further, says the report.
They stayed around for a few minutes and then left.
The family believes if the authorities had done their job the first time Bartlett would still be alive. They have two goals right now, they said Thursday afternoon. The first is to find out exactly what happened that night. Their second goal is to do whatever they can to ensure that something like this never happens again.
The family has not decided whether or not to file a civil suit, said Carr.
“Getting some of the report has been comforting,” said Ruth Bartlett, another daughter. “An apology would give us some closure.”
During the meeting with DeKalb officials Thursday morning family members said they hoped the officers who were in the cul-de-sac that night would personally apologize, Edwards said.
Apologies and condolences have been expressed by the CEO, the fire chief and the public safety director, she added. Further disciplinary action may be pending.
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