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Remember the embarrassing February 13 press conference with the fire chief and deputy county manager of Polk County, Florida about the fire that killed 76-year-old Lorretta Pickard (watch press conference here)? Yes, the one where the two men tried to BS their way through tough reporter questions by claiming–without any supporting facts–that the only error made during the fire was Captain James Williams sending a Snapchat video. It’s the press conference where a big deal was made of steam burns the captain received without even going into the fire, along with an unconvincing explanation of how Pickard could be inside talking on the phone with 911 just feet from the door, but it was too hot for two firefighters in full protective gear and 750 gallons of water to go inside. It’s the same press conference where, when asked by WFLA-TV reporter Melissa Marino if there was a cover-up, Deputy County Manager Joe Halman suddenly and bizarrely turned it into in a racial issue.
Well, Melissa Marino has hit again them again. This time she’s uncovered the internal report by Polk County Fire Rescue Chief Jeremiah Gilley that was submitted on December 6, 2018, a full two months and one week before the ridiculous press conference. The internal report confirms Marino had very good reason for her cover-up question. The internal report disputes just about everything Deputy County Manager Halman and Fire Chief Anthony Stravino said at the press conference. Whether you call it a cover-up, lies, spin or just plain BS, this report shows both the fire chief and deputy county manager should be relieved of their duties.
Here are the key points from the report that contradict what we heard on February 13:
- No firefighters were injured
- Tactical decisions made by the first arriving captain should have been different
- The captain and firefighter should have headed to the structure with full PPE and forcible entry tools
- Awaiting more personnel for two-in and two-out was not necessary because of entrapment
- The crew should have verified any accessible routes of ingress and egress to the house
- The possibility does exist there was a short period of time when the living space of the home could have still been entered and a rescue attempt made by the first firefighters (though that was also described in the report as extremely dangerous to firefighters and questioned the probability of a successful rescue)
- The captain and firefighter are inexperienced and that played a role in the initial response and command structure
- The fire and the circumstances surrounding it were overwhelming to this crew and would have overwhelmed many others faced with this situation
- The captain displayed a lack of knowledge of OSHA’s two-in and two-out rule
Every major point made in this report was brought up by reporters at the February 13 event. Both Halman and Stravino gave answers that clearly contradict the department’s own findings. The question that we are left with today is why are Joe Halman and Anthony Stravino still employed by Polk County?
Here are some key excerpts from the report:
In addition, the internal report criticized the Polk County Sheriff’s Office run 911 center for the same points I have been making at STATte911 and in a guest column in The Ledger–continuing to read from the script or intake matrix rather than urge Lorretta Pickard to leave her home and failure to relay key information to firefighters (listen to 911 call here):