Fire SNAFU in Richland - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire SNAFU in Richland

Donnie Westberry Donnie Westberry

July 25, 2003

Richland-- It's bad enough that your house catches on fire, but what if the firefighters can't get to the fire truck? Sound like a comedy sketch? It really happened in Richland, Georgia.

The fire consumed the entire house,"Oh my God, my house is burning down. I didn't think it was going to go that far because it started in the closet." A small fire Patricia Westbury thought could be easily extinguished.

But when she called 911, the fire trucks didn't come, "I see the chief standing right here and I see fire coming out of the door and I'm thinking, where's the fire truck at, my God!"

"I come home, all my kids, my wife, everyone is crying. I'm trying to figure out what's going on" says Donnie Westbury. He quickly found out, "Come to find out, they couldn't get in the fire department, the Lumpkin fire department were ready for twenty minutes. All they were waiting for was the call."

The Westburys say the Richland police chief had the wrong key to the fire department and couldn't get inside. A dozen volunteer firemen were at work or on vacation. Mr. Westbury says, "Even the people on vacation or at work, they should have called for backup. Somebody knew when they got to the fire station they couldn't get in that building."

Records show dispatch notified Lumpkin firefighters eleven minutes after the first call--their trucks arrived 12 minutes after that. The house, by this time, was engulfed in flames. Now, only a few charred items remain, like this antique fire truck Mr. Westbury got when he was a child, "It was a nice looking fire truck, it looks like the rest of my house now."

The rest of the house in shambles, the family questioning if the right key would have been the key to saving their home. The family did get some help from a jail work detail. Six inmates and their supervising officer moved six propane tanks away from the burning home and used water hoses to try to contain the fire. The Richland police chief couldn't be reached for comment.

Posted at 4:30 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com

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