Polk woman on phone with 911 operator 20 minutes & never rescued from fire

Polk County

The family of a woman who died in a Polk County fire wants to know why she didn’t make it out alive.

“I think my house is on fire, and I’m here alone and I’m on a walker,” Loretta Pickard can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher.

Pickard’s log home along Rockridge Road in North Lakeland was filling with smoke.

“It’s like unbelievable,” Loretta’s sister Linda Weckle told 8 On Your Side. “It’s like I got a hole in my heart.”

Loretta died in the fire on November 23, 2018, five days before her 77th birthday.

Now her family is trying to figure out why she didn’t make it out alive.

“The steps went right up to the door where she was sitting waiting for help. She was 5 feet away from the door. It’s also frustrating that she was never asked how close are you to a door? She’s being told [during the 911 call] you’re ok, they’re coming to get you, they’re here. She heard them there. She thought it was just going to be moments before they walked in, save the day and everything would be ok. She was trying to wait for the people that were supposed to save her life and they never came,” said Loretta’s niece Amber Addison. 

8 On Your Side learned that firefighters had to wait for a second crew to arrive for water. 

Deputy County Manager Joe Halman Jr. said in the meantime first responders tried to rescue Loretta, but couldn’t make it around the home.

“At one point they went around the house and the fire was so hot did they kind of got singed themselves in an effort to try to rescue this lady,” Halman said.

“If it wasn’t too hot for her to be in there and be alive then how is it too hot for them to be able to walk around the outside?” Addison questioned.

Loretta managed to stay on the phone and talk to the 911 dispatcher for 12 minutes after hearing sirens.

“Ms. Pickard? Hello?” the dispatcher said as Loretta took her final breaths.

The family believes the dispatcher also needed to try harder to convince Loretta to leave the home.

“She was never asked how close are you to a door? Can you open a door? They would have seen her and surely they would’ve went up and grabbed her,” Addison said.

The family contends that the house was not fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, yet Loretta was never rescued.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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