Four DeKalb County Fire Rescue firefighters terminated on Jan. 29 for neglect of duty that resulted in the death of an elderly Dunwoody woman may face criminal charges.
Fire Apparatus Operator William J. Greene, Capt. Tony L. Motes, Battalion Chief Lesley Clark and Battalion Chief Bennie J. Paige were fired following an investigation into a fire on Jan. 24 at 1687 N. Houghton Court in Dunwoody. The body of Ann Bartlett, 74, was found in the remains of the home.
The Dunwoody Police Department is conducting an investigation into Bartlett’s death and is working closely with the DeKalb Fire Department and the DeKalb County district attorney’s office, according to a statement released by Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan.
On the heels of the termination of the four firefighters, Fire Rescue Chief David Foster resigned on Monday, Feb. 1, and Deputy Chief Eddie O’Brien was named acting chief. No reason was given for the resignation.
Dunwoody Police officers were dispatched to the fire to assist with traffic control. The officers left for the scene five minutes after fire personnel were dispatched, according to the statement.
Bartlett called 911 shortly after 1 a.m, on Jan. 24 and told the dispatcher, she set the house on fire “with the thing from my nose,” referring to the oxygen infuser she used.
“Two Dunwoody Police officers arrived at the scene and found several DeKalb County Fire Department vehicles preparing to leave,” Grogan said in the statement. “The Dunwoody Police officers were advised by a firefighter from Ladder 18 that they could not locate any fire and were going back in service.”
Five hours later, at about 6:40 a.m., another call was received reporting a fire in the same area. Emergency personnel went to the scene and found a home fully engulfed in flames.
“We’re looking at the whole process,” said county spokeswoman Sheila Edwards, regarding the ongoing investigation. “There may be a review of policy and training, or there may be other officers involved. I don’t know yet.”
The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office is waiting on the conclusion of investigations by the Dunwoody Police and DeKalb fire departments before determining if criminal charges are warranted, DA office spokesman Orzy Theus said.
Clark, Greene and Moates, along with Capt. Sell Caldwell, were placed on administrative leave during the fire department internal investigation that ended on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The investigation determined that Greene, Caldwell, Clark and Motes failed to establish incident command. According to departmental guidelines, “the first unit to arrive at the scene of an incident shall establish command and remain in command until relieved by a ranking officer or until the incident is terminated.”
The investigation also revealed that no one walked up the driveway of the home to determine whether there was a fire.