Polk County Commission Chairman George Lindsey wants answers following an 8 On Your Side investigation into a deadly fire in November of 2018.
“If there is a breakdown in the protocols and the personel and the systems in place, then we need to know that to make those changes,” said Commissioner Lindsey. “ I have asked the manager to cue up the tapes so I can listen to the dispatch tape myself. My colleagues may also want to do the same thing.”
The dispatch recordings give a clearer picture of what happened the night 76-year- old Loretta Pickard perished in her North Lakeland home.
“We’ve got a caller advising there’s someone trapped inside the structure.”
That was one of at least six transmissions from a 911 dispatcher that went out to Polk Fire Rescue crews on Nov. 23, informing them someone was trapped inside a burning house.
Capt. James Williams can be heard as he acknowledged this information in audio obtained by 8 On Your Side.
“We were advised there is someone trapped inside the structure,” the 911 dispatcher said. Williams replied, “Copy, responding.”
Meanwhile, Pickard was inside her home and on the phone with 911.
The dispatched told Pickard, “If it’s safe to do so, leave the building, close the door behind you, and remain outside.”
“I’m here alone and I’m on a walker,” Pickard can be heard telling the dispatcher that she had trouble getting around.
The dispatcher worked to calm Pickard, and assured her several times that help was on the way.
When Captain Williams and his crew arrived on the scene, he reported to dispatch, “At this time the structure is half involved.”
Captain Williams then reported over the radio that they were going into “defensive mode,” meaning they started to fight the fire from the outside.
Dispatch audio depicts the chaos at the scene of the home in a heavily wooded area on Rockridge Road, as firefighters mentioned trouble with water sources, and requested more units to respond.
At one point, Pickard told the 911 operator she heard sirens outside her home.
As her home filled with smoke, Pickard grew concerned.
“They know I’m here right?” she can be heard asking. The dispatcher replied, “Yes they know you’re in there.”
The dispatcher again assured Pickard help was coming for her.
That help never came.
Commissioner Lindsey tells News Channel 8 the commission meets on Friday for an agenda session and again on Tuesday for the regular meeting. He believes this investigation will be a topic of discussion at both meetings.