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Dropped 911 call sparks fire debate

October 6, 2009 3:32:35 PM PDT
When the call of a fire came in on City Island, firefighters were dispatched to the wrong location, about a mile from the scene. The firefighter union blames it on a new dispatching system, but the city denies that. The fire broke out on City Island Avenue on Monday.

When the call dropped out, the 911 operator traced it to the nearest cell phone tower and dispatched firefighters there. But the dispatch ticket, obtained by Eyewitness News, listed the address as 20 Pilot Street, which does not exist.

Stacy Librandi, the woman who made the call, said there's no excuse for the confusion or the delay. She said that after the first call was dropped, she called a second time to relay the address.

But the city's streamlined fire-response system requires 911 operators to dispatch units themselves. So Stacy's second 911 call was logged as a second fire.

Had the calls been sent to a central dispatcher, critics say the confusion could have been avoided.

Uniformed Firefighters Association president Steve Cassidy explains that a central dispatcher would have been able to put the scenarios together to save valuable time.

But fire officials defended the system.

"Her cell phone just cut out, and we responded," department spokesman Frank Dwyer said. "We can't sit around and hope it's a false alarm or wait for a better address."

Librandi says her kids were on a sleep-over when the fire broke out. The fire was a close call she'd rather not think about.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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