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BBQ Restaurant Burns Down Because of 911 Dispatcher

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  • BBQ Restaurant Burns Down Because of 911 Dispatcher

    BBQ Restaurant Burns Down Because 911 Dispatcher Didn't Think There Was A Fire
    Created: 1/25/2007 12:04:14 PM
    Last updated: 1/25/2007 12:05:15 PM

    An Austin, Texas 911 dispatcher is coming under fire after he dismissed calls of smoke coming from BBQ restaurant.

    The dispatcher believed the smoke was coming from the restaurant's smoker and not an actual fire.

    "Fire department, can I help you? Yes, sir I think there's a lot of smoke." That's part of the 911 recording.

    At 1:45 in the morning, a man sees heavy smoke, but no flames coming from Bert's Barbecue. He thinks it's on fire and calls 911, but the dispatcher says the smoke is probably coming from something else.

    "Dispatch: It's white smoke isn't it?
    Caller: Yea, yea it is.
    Dispatch: Yea, yea it's probably from their smoker, like where they cook the brisket.
    Caller: I see..."

    "Based on that conversation, the dispatcher elected not send any resources at that time," says an official.

    At that time Bert's was on fire.

    Taxi driver Joel Perez could see it right in front of his face.

    "I noticed that smoke was coming all around, not from here all the way around from the building," he says.

    So he also called 911 and got the same dispatcher and the same response.

    "Dispatch: Okay...does it smell like the wood? Or does it smell like something else is on fire?
    Caller: No it smells like wood, there's a lot of it. I was just going across the street and I could smell it. There's like all this, you know, bit of a hazing smoke around here.
    Dispatch: Well could they be smoking their briskets?
    Caller: No, that's not brisket."

    "You could tell something was burning. It's not brisket, it's not sausage, that is burning," says the driver.

    At the end of Joel's call the dispatcher finally sends out firefighters to Bert's Barbecue, some 45 minutes after the first call. And that's huge considering it would have taken firefighters 45 seconds to get there. The fire station is right down the street.

    Bert's is now a total loss and workers like Jason Goss are out of a job.

    "I think it's safe to assume when the first call came in and certainly having a forty five minute delay between the two calls would have made a difference," says Goss.

    In another twist, the dispatcher is a firefighter himself and he is now under investigation by the Austin Fire Department.

    Link to story with video:


  • #2
    "brother".. thanks for the black eye...

    The disptacher/fire alarm operator
    s job ias not to make judgenment calls on whetheer to send firefighters and apparatus to a call... they are supposed to send them and let the first due offcier/chief officer decide to increase decrease or cancel the response altogether.

    The new improved Berts BBQ will be constructed with the taxpayer's dfollars won in the lawsuit against the Austin FD.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


    • #3
      That's how it is here. No matter what they dispatch a truck out.


      • #4
        These are my opinions only and do not represent those of AFD.

        Soooooooo, this was a bad judgement call in this instance, but if we literally went on all the smoke odors from nearby BBQ restaurants in Austin, we would have no time to run any other calls. I am not sure how many they get per day at dispatch for these BBQ's but I would say quite a few. But on this one they should have at the very minimum sent a crew from 2's to walk down there even. They are literally 50 yards from the place.
        Some of this can be traced down to a public that has just gone crazy with cell phones. A crew just last night I talked to, went on a trash fire that ended up being some candles burning under an overpass in remembrance of a homeless guy who was killed last week. So why was Joe Blow cell phone caller unable to figure that out.
        So in a nut shell dispatchers will no longer have that discretion anymore. They will send at least a still engine.
        Which comes to another point. Most departments have civilian dispatchers so a lot of times they do not have the field experience to make those judgement calls so they send units on anything. While dispatchers with field experience are a little more likely to use their judgement (good or bad).

        A few years ago some Austin police officers were at a fire watching it burn and did text messaging via MDC. The text on one MDC was "Burn, baby burn" The nightclub that was burning just happened to be predominantly African American and a civilian looked in a patrol car and saw that message. Whoa did the poop hit the fan on that one. But the city ponied up some money to loan them or help them rebuild somehow. So I am sure the city will do the same for Berts. The sad thing though is that lasy year a dry cleaners that was in the same building had a fire and after the fire was out, the staff of Berts brought all the FF's some food and drinks. So hopefully this will not leave too bad of black eye on AFD. The dispatcher will learn from his mistake and we will move on.


        • #5
          What..... you dispatch centers don't have a crystal ball???

          Ours suffers from the "lets send a deputy to check it out first" syndrome.
          Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
          "Everybody Goes Home"

          IACOJ 2003


          • #6
            Well, atleast the next Bert's will have a sprinkler system in it.


            • #7
              Same with my department

              Quite a few times the "fully trained & qualified" dispatchers fail to dispatch the fire department to calls. We joke on our dept and say we have black and white firetrucks...No matter how much the chiefs complain to the police dept they keep on doing it...and someday its gonna bite them in the *** I can guarantee that. What happened with this situation is kind of ridiculous, and the dispatcher should of known better.
              New Jersey


              • #8
                To bad, I am sure this dispatcher had good intentions...here dispatchers take calls then dispatch...no options...they can relay info to responding units for them to make decissions whether to downgrade or cancel


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mtnfireguy View Post
                  What..... you dispatch centers don't have a crystal ball???

                  Ours suffers from the "lets send a deputy to check it out first" syndrome.
                  and I thought we was the only one's that had dispatcher's that did that!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CALFFBOU View Post
                    Well, atleast the next Bert's will have a sprinkler system in it.
                    We had a restaurant burn down a few years ago. I was the IC and went defensive right away (fire through the roof on arrival, lightweight wood truss construction). The company rebuilt with sprinklers-for the shrubs outside, nothing for the building.

                    Bad call by the dispatcher. We had a store with a huge smoke house that would generate may 911 calls when they fired up the ovens. They would call us when they operated-we would still send an engine if we received a 911 call.
                    Last edited by KenNFD1219; 01-25-2007, 11:59 PM.
                    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
                    Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.


                    • #11
                      We joke on our dept and say we have black and white firetrucks
                      HA same!

                      We get a lot of calls for a few places that have wood burning stoves. There are at least two that almost always get a one engine response. There is also a house that we get hit on all the time. It has a dryer vent in the front right under the roof. If the weather is right it is guarantied that we will get a run there.
                      This space for rent


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mtnfireguy View Post
                        Ours suffers from the "lets send a deputy to check it out first" syndrome.
                        We used to have that problem but solved it many years ago. The PD, as the 911 answering point, received all 911 calls. A certain police sergeant would send a police car "to see if the FD is needed". One night my Lt. had enough of this. He called the sergeant and said "we just got a call a guy is beating up his wife. I sent an engine to see if the police are really needed." He then hung up the phone. The sergeant immediately called back and the Lt. said, "don't worry, I'll call you right away if the police are needed" and hung up on him again.

                        When the Sgt called back, you could hear him screaming over the phone. The Lt. said "now you know how it feels. Call us when someone reports a fire." Never had a problem after that.
                        Last edited by KenNFD1219; 01-26-2007, 12:20 AM.
                        "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
                        Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.


                        • #13
                          How late do they BBQ in Austin?

                          Maybe too big of a city, but tickler notes in the CAD system could help ("Business hours are 1100 to 2300, start bbq around 0600") The call came in at 0145 which seems unusual to me. If the dispatcher followed that same protocol at 2000, there probably would've been no problem.

                          It is legitimate sometimes for dispatchers to try and clarify and classify calls.

                          I know one of our dispatch center's big false call locations is an injection molding company right off the Interstate that has a very orange glow to their yard lights...yeah, between the steam and the lights it does look a lot more like a fire then most buildings. If the dispatchers can't convince the caller it's steam, I think they call the plant next to verify if there is an actual problem.

                          IWCP are another problem, goodness the companies that protect the interstate had their fire calls shoot up over the last few years since now every overheated car becomes a "car fire." I've been able to, well not cancel, but at least call the dispatch and let them know the fire they just toned out is just an overheated vehicle...so the department having jurisdiction could knock down their response to proceed with traffic or officer only.


                          • #14
                            As a dispatcher, if I do not send someone, it is my own ***!

                            I can't see it from where I am at so I take their word for it. It is a huge liability not to send someone. Even if it is a regular thing, you still gotta.

                            We have a coffee shop that roasts their beans every so often. Each and every time the fired the roaster up, it looked like the building was on fire. After several calls there, we now have worked out a system that they call us ahead of time that they are roasting and when they are done. If they fail to call, then we send the FD. That is their job.
                            Jason Knecht
                            Township Fire Dept., Inc.
                            Eau Claire, WI

                            IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
                            EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!


                            • #15
                              That would be a similar system to the contractors back home, doing "Ecological Relocation" (read: Logging) and they are building their burn piles. You can see the fires from that over very great distances - 20 - 40 miles some days. Even in the rain and fog, apparently Anyhow, the companies have taken to calling us and Dispatch to advise when they are going to do a burn, and in what locations so that we dont end up responding to a burn pile. Like that's never happened before....
                              If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

                              "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

                              "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

                              Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

                              impossible solved cotidie. miracles postulo viginti - quattuor hora animadverto

                              IACOJ member: Cheers, Play safe y'all.


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