Investigative report: Whitehouse Fire Department delays, KETK obtains dispatch records
POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 9:29pm
UPDATED: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 5:24pm
Whitehouse, Texas (KETK) — WHITEHOUSE , TEXAS (KETK) — The Whitehouse Municipal Fire Department is under 'fire' for a delayed response time when called to 207 Senter Avenue on Sunday, August 18. Fire officials tell KETK the blaze started around 1:00 a.m.. The homeowners were able to make it out on time, however the house was a completely destroyed.
Neighbor, Bill Mclean, lives directly next door to the now burned down home, he says after numerous calls to 911 by he and his fellow neighbors, crews took too long to get there. Mclean says, "I ended up calling the fire department one more time myself, and then it was about 20 minutes later when we finally got somebody here." According to the the official time records, the call took 18 minutes.
The distance from the fire station to Senter Avenue is 0.4 miles, not even a half a mile away. Residents KETK spoke with in the area were confused by the delayed response time since the fire station is so close. According to the interim administrative assistant for the Whitehouse Fire Department, Michael Frost, brought in from the Tyler Fire Department, there was some "miscommunication" with Smith County dispatch.
Frost was called in by Whitehouse City Manager Kevin Huckabee as the interim fire chief to sort out the problems and review the protocols at the Whitehouse Fire Department. Frost says on the night of the August 18, paid firemen from Whitehouse were out on a call assisting the Flint/Gresham Volunteer Fire Department with a multiple vehicle fatal accident.
During the time the paid Whitehouse firemen were out on the call, Frost says, Smith County dispatch was supposed to send out a "page" or "box call" to area volunteer firefighters to man the station while the paid firemen were unavailable. "There was a miscommunication through the dispatch system and they weren't paged immediately," said Frost. "So crews responded from Flint instead of the Whitehouse fire station, which caused the time delay."
According to Smith County dispatch records, the 911 call about the fire came in at 1:14 a.m., at the same time the call came in a page was sent to the paid, and volunteer Whitehouse firefighters. At 1:0 a.m. dispatch then spoke to Whitehouse Fire via radio. Then, at 1:26 a.m. Whitehouse Fire, Flint/Gresham Fire and Troup Fire Departments were all called to the scene on Senter. At 1:36 a.m. Chapel Hill fire was dispatched for additional man power.
McLean also tells KETK, as he was witnessing crews arrive, the firemen encountered another problem. Mclean says, "The fire hydrant down at the end of the street didn't work, so they had to go to the next hydrant." Frost is also looking into the problem regarding the non-working hydrant. Frost says, "That hydrant was written up, and had been turned in by email (to the Public Works Water Company) and somewhere in there it hadn't been repaired."
KETK contacted the Public Works Director Jim Thomlin who is responsible for repairing the fire hydrants for the city. He was unavailable for comment. KETK will continue to bring you new details on this story as they become available.
For questions, comments, or concerns about this story please contact reporter Nicole Vowell at Nvowell@ketknbc.com