Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Phoning problems delay firefighting at Celina residence
Family escapes but house lost
By Margie Wuebker
A wrong house number and an inability to track the location of the emergency call complicated firefighting efforts at a house that burned to the ground early Tuesday morning in rural Celina.
Michelle Franck, 8185 Township Line Road, Celina, listened for the approach of fire trucks as she reportedly tried to douse the fire without success. This is the second time the family has dealt with a devastating fire resulting in the loss of their home.
Franck and two young daughters ages 10 and 4 escaped their latest home, which the family reportedly moved into in December. Her husband, Shawn, and an older child were not home at the time.
One of the girls reportedly used a cell phone to call 911 at 12:55 a.m. but apparently listed the address as 815 Township Line Road amid the excitement, placing the location in the jurisdiction of the Fort Recovery area fire department.
Firefighters drove through the countryside without seeing a telltale glow in the nighttime sky. Franck placed a second 911 call and heard firefighters radio back no flames were visible in the area of 815 Township Line Road. She quickly shouted out the correct address many miles to the north in the heart of Chattanooga Fire Department territory. The resulting dispatch went out at 1:10 a.m.
"The home was fully engulfed and the roof was gone when we arrived on the scene," Chattanooga Fire Chief Doug Brehm told The Daily Standard. "There wasn't much we could save at that point."
Also responding to the scene were units from Rockford, Mendon, Celina and Coldwater. They quickly established a tanker relay bringing in water from a farm pond approximately a mile away.
Excavating equipment was brought in after flames breached the floor gaining access to the crawl space below. Firefighters had no problem extinguishing the fire with charred wood and metal stripped away.
"We were able to save pictures and other mementos from the fire last summer," Brehm said. "I suspect what was saved then is gone now."
Zeus, the family's 3- to 4-month-old German Shepherd, perished in the blaze.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, but Brehm believes the fire began in or near the living room. The family reportedly has insurance coverage.
Brehm lauded the quick response of the Mercer County chapter of the American Red Cross in coming to the Francks' aid. The agency is currently providing lodging for the family.
Mercer County 911 Administrator Monte Diegel hopes to talk with Michelle Franck in the coming days. The county is in the midst of mapping efforts to track cell phone calls to 911. Only one cell phone carrier remains to be added, and Diegel suspects the remaining carrier could be hers.
"If the process had been complete, the location of the first 911 call would have popped up on the screen immediately," Diegel said. "Thirteen minutes is a long time when you're dealing with fire."