It took Brooklyn firefighters as long as eight minutes yesterday to arrive at a blaze that killed two toddlers and their dad -- and it was the second time in two weeks the Bravest lost precious time by being sent to the wrong location.
The exact amount of time lost is in dispute. The fire union and a chief at the scene agreed it was close to eight minutes. But an FDNY spokesman said it was, at worst, six minutes.
The victims this time were Myrtel Jean, 42, and his two toddler sons, 1-year old Sebastian and 2-year-old Fabrice, who were carried out of a sixth-floor apartment at 654 St. Marks Ave. in Crown Heights. Fire officials said Jean may have tried to put the blaze out himself, and were checking to find out whether the apartment had working smoke detectors.
According to a chief who responded, as well as the union, firefighters from Engine 280/Ladder 132 lost more than four minutes because they were dispatched to a location a block away on Rogers Avenue after the 911 call came in at 12:27 p.m. The first trucks, everyone agreed, made it to that location in just over three minutes.
A civilian at the scene directed them to the fire scene -- but not until 12:35 p.m. -- just under eight minutes after the original call, said Deputy Chief James Campbell.
But FDNY spokesman Jim Long insisted that trucks were at the correct address in about six minutes.
The FDNY initially said 911 callers gave a wrong address. But later, it said the callers gave a "nonspecific" address.
"They were dispatched based on information from two 911 callers -- both via cellphones -- reporting a fire in the vicinity of Rogers Avenue and Prospect Avenue," said another FDNY spokesman, Frank Gribbon. "[They] learned upon their arrival at the callers' location that the fire was around the corner. The units immediately proceeded to that location."
Less than two weeks ago, on Nov. 7, a 911 operator's typo sent firefighters racing to a wrong address in Woodside, Queens, as three men died in a fire a mere three blocks away in an illegally converted home.
Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said yesterday's tragedy was also caused by a dispatching error.
He said the city's new multibillion-dollar Unified Call Taker 911 system is seriously flawed.
"The new dispatch system does not work," he said.
Gordon Burks, 52, who made one of yesterday's 911 calls, was shocked at the questions asked by the dispatcher. "They wasted valuable time," he said. "I'm trying to tell them a man is dying up the block, so why ask me my name, my address and where I am now?"
2 Children, Adult Killed In Fire Firefighters Drive To Wrong Building MYFOXNY.COM 11/19/09 BY LUKE FUNK
A man and his two children were killed in a fire in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The apartment on the top floor of the six-story building at 654 St. Mark's Avenue caught fire at around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Fox 5 News reported on Wednesday that firefighters were delayed in getting to fire because they were went to the wrong address.
People who live in the neighborhood say they had to run to another block direct the fire trucks to the correct address.
Fire department officials say crews were on the scene three minutes after they were dispatched and the flames were put out about thirty minutes later.
Police say the victims are a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 43-year-old. They were transported to a hospital where they later died.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. A source told Fox 5 News that the investigation was centering on the possibility that burning incense sparked the fire.
The FDNY reviewed recordings of the dispatcher calls.
Wednesday evening the FDNY issued this statement:
"Fire Department units that responded to a fatal fire in Brooklyn this afternoon were not given a specific address. They were dispatched based on information from two 911 callers - both via cell phones - reporting a fire in the vicinity of Rogers Avenue and Prospect Avenue. Units arrived at that location in just over 3 minutes - and learned upon their arrival at the callers' location that the fire was around the corner. The units immediately proceeded to that location and initiated fire rescue and suppression operations. They did not respond to a wrong address. They responded to the location provided by both calls to 911." -Frank Gribbon, FDNY Spokesperson