Dispatcher tells 911 caller fire was just fog
An emergency dispatcher dismissed the first 9-1-1 call to report a fire that eventually destroyed historic Fort Clatsop, a newspaper said today.
The Associated Press
ASTORIA, Ore. — An emergency dispatcher dismissed the first 9-1-1 call to report a fire that eventually destroyed historic Fort Clatsop, a newspaper said today.
The Daily Astorian reported that a woman who called 9-1-1 shortly after 10 p.m. on Oct. 3 to alert dispatchers to what appeared to be a fire on the south side of Youngs Bay was told that what she was seeing was likely just the play of light in the rain and fog.
Not until a second call came several minutes later to a different dispatcher at the Astoria Police emergency communications center were local firefighters alerted to the blaze, which gutted the 50-year-old replica of the fort where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark camped in 1805 after their famed expedition finally reached the Pacific Ocean.
The fort was going to be the centerpiece of an event marking the bicentennial of the expedition.
Lewis and Clark Fire District Chief Ian O'Connor obtained a tape recording of the 9-1-1 calls and provided it to The Daily Astorian.
"It's quite disturbing to listen to," O'Connor said.
The Lewis and Clark Fire District and three other departments responded to the blaze. The cause remains undetermined, although investigators found no evidence of arson at the scene.
The delay in calling out firefighters because the first call was dismissed likely cost the department about 15 minutes in responding to the blaze, O'Connor said.
It would not have been enough time to save the fort, which was almost fully engulfed by the time the first crews arrived, but arriving 15 minutes earlier may have enabled them to protect some of the structure, he said.
The following was recorded in the first 9-1-1 call:
Caller: "I see a fire, I'm sure it's already been reported, but I live on Sonora, on the hill in Astoria. I'm looking over Youngs Bay River...
Dispatcher: "Yeah, it's kind of foggy and raining out. Sometimes that happens..."
Dispatcher: "...yeah, it's not a fire."
Caller: "Really? It looks like a fire on the other side of the river."
Dispatcher: "Yeah, it's not a fire."
About 10 minutes later another person called the 9-1-1 center and reached another dispatcher. The woman reported seeing "bright orange flaring, and it flares up and goes down, there's a lot of smoke with it."
After getting the caller's name, address and phone number the second dispatcher told her, "Okay, we'll have someone check it out."
Astoria City Manager Dan Bartlett said the police department is conducting an internal investigation of the incident and the first dispatcher, whose name was not released. He will also decide whether any improvements in operations or training are needed, he said.
"I've heard the recording, and I don't find that to be up to our standards of what we expect from our dispatchers," he said.
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