PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There are questions about how a fire in the city’s Elliott section was handled by Pittsburgh Police.
A security camera caught what appears to be a fire starting, but what happened next is what the homeowner doesn’t understand. The original call came in as a motion detector activated, but it’s what that security camera captured that has the homeowner raising questions.
A minute or two before 10 p.m. on Saturday, the security camera shows the kitchen of the Bunch family home on Bucyrus Street light up.
KDKA’s John Shumway: “Is that a light, do you think?”
“It’s possible. However, considering the flickering of the shadow over there, I’m going to take a wild guess that that might be flames,” said Chief Darryl Jones, of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire.
Chief Jones watched the surveillance video of the flickering against the neighbor’s home continue and then die down.
The homeowner got a call from her alarm company, and she called 911 at 10:06 p.m.
A minute late, as the officer’s flashlight beam came down between the buildings, the flickering glow, albeit dimmer, could still be seen in the kitchen window.
“That’s him going up on the porch,” said Chief Jones, watching the video.
The officer could be seen checking the windows and doors, and eight minutes later, a call came over the police scanners saying, “House secure, I’m back in.”
About 30 minutes later, the flickering suddenly got bright again.
“There is no doubt, there is something going on in there,” Chief Jones said of the video.
ADT called the homeowner again, and she called 911 again.
“The motion detectors kept going off. Why wasn’t the police able to see who was going on in the house?” said the homeowner, Mrs. Bunch.
This time, officers arriving on the scene were quick with their report.
“We see flames in the back,” they reported in a call back to dispatch.
The dispatch was made to get firefighters to the scene: “Dispatch 30 on the scene. We got heavy fire.”
So, we’re looking at almost an hour from the time that the original call came in to the time we’re, the fire department, is actually there,” says Chief Jones.
Three minutes later, the call to dispatch came in: “30 to Command, I think we got the fire knocked down.”
Clearly, the security camera is very light sensitive, and Chief Jones has a theory why the first police officer didn’t see anything.
Chief Jones: “His light might have washed it out.”
Shumway: “To where he could not have seen what was going on in that kitchen?”
Chief Jones: “Yes, he didn’t notice it.”
Plus, the kitchen window has a curtain that would have blocked the view of anything happening inside. While police found no evidence of a break-in, the homeowner believes someone did enter inside and set the fire.
After reviewing the video with Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich sent KDKA this statement on Tuesday, saying in part:
“We are confident the officers acted appropriately. As the video reveals, when the fire was discovered the officers, despite the flames, attempted to enter the residence to ensure no one was inside. The surveillance camera video does not capture what the officers observed from their location on the ground during the time they were at the residence.”