Ruth Bartlett, whose mother was killed in January in a house fire, is seeking procedural changes in the way DeKalb County 911 and Fire Rescue respond to fires.
Bartlett and her sisters filed a lawsuit April 29 against the county, the fire department and four firefighters terminated as a result of the blaze that killed 74-year-old Ann Bartlett in her Dunwoody home.
“The main thing we want to come out of the lawsuit is to make recommendations for the 911 and fire rescue policies to be changed,” Ruth Bartlett said. “The response falls apart at four or five critical places, and if any of those had not happened my mother would still be alive.”
The lawsuit also calls for unspecified monetary compensation.
Former fire chief David Foster resigned after the fire, and firefighters. Sell Caldwell, Tony Moates, William Greene and Lesley Clark all were fired in the aftermath. The lawsuit names Caldwell, Moates, Greene and Clark.
Moates and Greene both appealed their terminations and both have been recommended to be reinstated by an independent hearing officer. Caldwell also appealed but has not had his hearing yet, said county spokeswoman Sheila Edwards. The other terminated firefighters do not have the option of appeal, Edwards said.
The county is appealing the reinstatement of both Moates and Greene.
“We want them to continue to appeal,” Ruth Bartlett said. “We don’t feel like the level of legal attention on the appeals has been high enough. We would like for the county to have more experienced legal representation, and they said they would look into it.”
Ann Bartlett called 911 just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 24 and told the dispatcher that she set her house on fire with an oxygen concentrator she used when she slept, according to accounts of the incident. The call was interrupted and the dispatcher called back but could not reach Bartlett.
Five units were sent to the 1600 block of Houghton Court but no firefighters left the truck to search for the address. All five units left the scene minutes after they arrived. Five hours later several calls reporting a fire were received by 911 and when units responded the home was engulfed in flames. Ann Bartlett’s body was found in the garage.
“We filed letters asking to talk to (county representatives),” Ruth Bartlett said. “We wanted mediation but the county’s legal staff refused. We had no choice but to file a lawsuit.”
According to Ruth Bartlett, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis has said he will meet with Bartlett and her sisters, but that meeting has not yet been scheduled.
The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Bartlett’s sisters Terri Vann of Dunwoody and Linda Marett of Roswell.
“The country has the idea that if you call 911 someone will come to your door to find you,” Ruth Bartlett said. “We want to get the word out to have a personal backup plan.”