911 glitch creates deadly delay in Delaware Co. kennel fire

A 911 glitch caused firefighters to be 20 minutes late to this Daleville fire.

There are serious concerns in Delaware County after a call for help went unanswered, allowing a building to burn to the ground without the fire department even knowing it was in flames.

The problem happened last Friday when a kennel full of dogs caught fire. 911 was called, but the closest fire department didn't show up for more than 20 minutes.

Now, fire chiefs across the county want to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Ron Moody says he has a lot to be thankful for, even after a fire gutted his Daleville kennels, killing two of his eight dogs and destroying three vehicles.

"The flames were leaping through the garage door, around the Crown Victoria, and my first thoughts were the dogs," said Moody.

Moody's neighbor called 911 just after 4 a.m. last Friday morning as he rushed to save the dogs from the burning building. Moody was able to get six of his dogs out, but no one from the fire department was showing up.

Daleville Fire Chief Todd Lewis said he was listening to his police and fire scanner from home when he heard dispatch sending a neighboring department from Madison County to the fire, which was less than a mile from their station.

"I looked out my window and seen the nice glow in the sky, so I called dispatch and asked 'Do we have a run in Daleville we haven't heard about yet?'" Lewis said. "She said, 'We've toned you three times and no one has responded yet.'"

The problem was, no one on the volunteer department received the dispatch on their pagers due to an equipment malfunction from the 911 dispatch center. What should have been a six-minute response ended up taking three times as long. Firefighters from several surrounding departments ended up arriving first, but the kennel was a total loss.

Delaware County 911 Communications Center Director Joe Winkle says a computer glitch put the signal to a nearby cell tower on standby, so the page never went out. He says this has happened once before in August, but county fire chiefs weren't notified of the problem because Winkler says Motorola assured them the problem was fixed.

Since Friday, several meetings have been held to get to the bottom of the problem, but Chief Lewis is not convinced it won't happen again.

"My biggest fear is we're going to have a call out here and someone dies because we are not able to respond," said Lewis.

Moody has moved his Golden Retrievers, Labs and Labradoodles to temporary kennels and is focusing on rebuilding. He says he is not angry about the delay, but hopes the problem is fixed sooner than later.

"Our house was catching fire on the backside, so if they hadn't come when they did, our whole house would have been engulfed in flames, so I'm thankful for that," he said.

The pager system had been checked twice a day, but Winkle says now a pager inside the 911 center will be tested once an hour to be sure those calls for help will not go unanswered again.

Delaware County officials are working with an outside company to be sure the problem is resolved.