Neighbors angry about DeKalb firefighters' response

When firefighters came to the house again -- five hours after the first call to 911 -- Ann Bartlett was dead and her Houghton Court home was destroyed.

Four DeKalb County fire officers are now on administrative leave while county officials investigate the department’s response to the fatal fire.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Tom Brooks, who lives near Bartlett.

On 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.

According to a statement from the county CEO’s spokeswoman, the 911 center received a call reporting a fire on Houghton Court around 1 a.m. The call was disconnected and dispatchers were unable to receive all of the information.

Firefighters responded to the call, but were unable to find any signs of a fire, according to the statement.

Around 6:40 a.m., firefighters received another call about a fire in the same area. By that time, Bartlett’s home was fully engulfed in flames.

“After the fire was brought under control, firefighters performed a detailed search of the property and, unfortunately, discovered a body,” the statement reads.

It’s unclear why firefighters were unable to find the fire during the first call. County officials have not answered questions, saying that’s part of the internal investigation.

The AJC has requested recordings of the 911 calls, along with all reports for the fire.

According to Brooks, neighbors saw two fire trucks, two police cars and a paramedic’s vehicle near Bartlett’s home around 1 a.m. After not seeing any flames, the emergency trucks drove off.

Brooks said his neighbor woke him up around 6:30 a.m.

“Ann’s house was fully engulfed and I didn’t see any fire engines,” he said.

Brooks and several of his neighbors called 911 again. Firefighters arrived about 15 minutes later, he said.

Claudette DuBose, who lives down the street from Bartlett, said she heard an explosion around 6 a.m.

“I was in my den and I heard an explosion. I thought it was an earthquake like in Haiti,” she said. “This was 6:30 a.m. I didn’t hear any fire trucks before then.”

Bartlett moved to Houghton Court with her three daughters in 1969.

“We were building our house and the builder said a woman was living in a motel with her three daughters,” DuBose said. “I told the builder to finish her [Bartlett's] house first.”

DuBose and Bartlett became close friends, raising their children together, babysitting for each other and playing in golf tournaments  at the Dunwoody Country Club.

“She was a nice woman. My son would go over there and she always gave him hot chocolate and cookies. He started to think every house should have hot chocolate and cookies,” DuBose said.

After Bartlett’s daughters moved out of the house, the single mother, who was on oxygen, continued to work several days a week at North American Money Order Company. When not working, she visited Lake Lanier, bowled, played bridge and spent time with her dog, her family said. The dog also died in the fire.

Staff writer Marcus K. Garner contributed to this report.

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