MASHAUN D. SIMON
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An apology. That's what the family of an elderly woman who died in a Dunwoody house fire early Sunday morning wants from DeKalb County and fire department officials.
The body of Ann Bartlett, 74, was discovered after fire destroyed a home in the 1600 block of Houghton Court North. Firefighters arrived at the house 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 and the home was completely engulfed in flames. Bartlett was found dead in the garage.
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.
An investigation of the department's response to the fatal fire was launched earlier. Sheila Edwards, spokeswoman from the CEO's office, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the investigation was completed Wednesday night and shared with 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."
"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's reference was to an oxygen concentrator she used when she slept, said Linda Bartlett Marett, one of Bartlett's daughters. The concentrator was used to create oxygen to help Bartlett deal with 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, the report said.
They stayed for a few minutes and left.
"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, family members said they wanted officers who were on the scene that night to personally apologize, Edwards said.
Apologies and condolences have been offered by the CEO, the fire chief and the public safety director, she added. Further disciplinary action is pending.
Copyright 2010 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 29, 2010