PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On Saturday morning in Carrick, a house caught on fire. The call went out at 6:18 a.m.
The KDKA Investigators have obtained the dispatch tapes from the call.
911 Dispatch Tape: “23 Lacona Street… Apartment 1… off of Transverse Avenue for an odor of something burning. Two apartments in the building.”
911 Dispatch Tape: “Fire on the second floor of the residence.”
The firehouse expected to respond immediately, Engine Company 23, is a little over a half mile down the road.
911 Dispatch Tape: “Fire dispatch to Engine 23. Are you en route?”
There was no response.
Several more minutes passed. Then, there was another call from dispatch; this time to report Pittsburgh Police on scene first.
911 Dispatch Tape: “Police are on scene reporting the fire has started in the kitchen and it’s on the second floor.”
Another call goes out for Engine 23.
911 Dispatch Tape: “Is 23 answering this?”
911 Dispatch Tape: “Negative, sir. I haven’t heard from them. I’m trying to call them.”
Meanwhile, nearly seven minutes after the fire started, no one was on the scene.
911 Dispatch Tape: “Pittsburgh Police on scene. Step it up. The house is going up.”
Two companies did arrive and started to fight the fire. Still though, the house was a total loss. And Engine Company 23 arrived last.
A firefighter with direct knowledge of the incident says there are four firefighters in the firehouse; one is ordered to stay awake. He allegedly fell asleep.
“A cat stuck in a tree, that wouldn’t be a big deal; but a house on fire… that’s the worst call you can get,” that firefighter said.
He says a nearly 10 minute response time for a unit expected to be at the scene in three minutes is unforgivable.
“The faster we get there, the faster we can put the fire out,” the firefighter said. “When you don’t show up, and you’re the first person supposed to be on the scene, it’s tragic.”
The call and the response raised similar concerns with Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief Darryl Jones.
“It’s not acceptable,” said Chief Jones. “We are here to make sure we have a rapid response. The response was delayed for whatever reason, which is still under investigation, and we will make corrections as necessary.”
The chief is being told the radios failed. Described by a source as a one in a million shot. Or, the chief is being told of the possibility of a dozing firefighter.
“Whether someone did fall asleep. Was there a problem with the radios? Was there a problem with the rig? What was the problem?” Chief Jones added. “And we’re trying to get to the bottom of it and take care of that problem.”
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