Logs, radio traffic recorded no attempts to rescue woman trapped in burning home
LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - Polk County officials released nearly 300 pages of documents Tuesday related to a woman’s death in a Lakeland house fire back in November.
There seems to have been discrepancies between the timestamped incident log and what officials say happened at the scene; mainly, whether fire crews ever attempted to rescue the woman inside.
County officials maintain crews tried to save Lorretta Pickard, but no attempts are recorded in the documents or radio traffic audio.
According to the log between dispatchers and fire crews, first responders never attempted to go into the house or check around it. The document never mentions a person trapped inside.
Pickard: I think my house is on fire, and I’m here alone and I’m on a walker.
Dispatcher: If it’s safe to do so, leave the building, close the door behind you and remain outside.
Pickard: I’m not injured but my eyes are full of smoke. My lungs. I can’t get out the door.
Lorretta Pickard's cabin in Lakeland was filling with smoke. The 76-year-old woman was scared. She was recovering from surgery and had trouble getting around.
She stayed on the phone with 911 for about 20-minutes, waiting to be rescued.
According to the investigative report from the incident, firefighters knew someone was possibly trapped inside the house. But the captain says he couldn't confirm that.
There were no cars in the driveway and he had no working computer in his firetruck, which is how he would have confirmed information from dispatchers.
The 911 operator assured Lorretta help was on the way.
Pickard: They know I’m in here, right?
911: Yes, they know you’re in there, I let them know. They know you’re in there.
But her rescuers never came.
Lorretta Pickard took her final breaths while on the phone with 911.
"She was just several feet from a door sitting in her dining room chair."
Pickard’s family can't understand why she didn't make it out alive.
"It doesn’t make sense, that’s their job, that’s what they do,” Lorretta’s niece, Amber Addison said. “You don’t have to be a firefighter, you choose to be a firefighter, that’s what you do, you're supposed to save people."
County leaders say the home's wooded location made fighting the fire tricky for crews. We're told the first firefighters on scene had to wait for another truck to get water to her home.
Meanwhile, the spreading fire and downed power lines prevented them from getting inside.
"The flames were too great, the fire was too hot for them to go in and try to save or get this lady," explained Deputy County Manager for Public Safety Joe Halman, Jr. "Obviously they didn’t go inside the house, but we do know in their attempts to save her life they each received some kind of burn to themselves."
Loved ones think the 911 operator could have done more to encourage Pickard to get out of the house.
“We just don’t understand, and we don’t want it to happen to another family," Addison said.
The person calling the shots that night was Capt. James Williams.
FOX 13 News has learned he took a video of the fire burning and posted it on Snapchat.
After an internal investigation, Williams was suspended without pay for 24 hours for violating the department's photography policy.
It's not clear if the video was taken while Pickard was still on the phone with 911, or if Williams knew she was inside.
Still, Pickard’s loved ones think he deserves more severe punishment.
Fire officials say they are going to release some video from the scene on Wednesday, February 13.