Firefighters put out a blaze in the basement of a northeast Denver home this morning, about 90 minutes after a neighbor called 911 to report a strong smell of smoke.
The neighbor, Torry Hughes, said he called 911 about 5:30 a.m. to report smoke, but the dispatcher was dismissive.
Hughes said he stepped outside to take his dog for a walk when the smell of smoke "hit me in the face, like a brick."
(Denver Fire Department Spokesman Phil) Champaign says there is an investigation underway to determine the cause of the fire and also whether firefighters should have been dispatched after the 5:30 a.m. call (on Friday).
Champaign says the caller could not identify where the smoke was coming from.
"In our defense, we get a lot of those calls," Champaign said. "It's discretionary whether we send a truck."
"Had firefighters been dispatched, it is uncertain if they would have located the building anyway," Champaign said.
He says the investigation will review policy and determine whether policy needs to be changed.
"If discipline is needed, we will address that," he said.
“Denver Fire has always been forthright and upfront,” he said. “The bottom line is … it appears that a call originated around 5:30. They smelled smoke in the area. They didn’t see smoke. They didn’t see flames.”
Champagne said the caller told the dispatcher that the smoke might be a fireplace but he thought it was a house fire.
“Our dispatcher screened the call and in essence made a discretionary decision,” Champagne said. “No fire truck was sent.”
Champagne said that was abnormal.
“Traditionally we like to send fire trucks to investigate for us. The caveat to that is that even if we had sent a fire truck, there’s a small likelihood that we wouldn’t have found the fire.”
“We don’t make any excuses,” Champagne said. “We strive to be perfect. Do we fall short on occasion? Absolutely. This is one of those cases where we could have done a better job.”
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