Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013
Family: Firefighters Cost Us Our Home
WEST CITY -- Most homeowners consider living close to the fire department a good thing. That's what Jaime and TJ Gray thought about their West City home. It's along Blakely street, just across from the road from the West City Fire Department. But that location didn't help early Friday morning when their house went up in flames.
It's a scene from a nightmare. A fire starts in the early morning hours, as your family sleeps. Homeowner Jamie Gray says, thankfully, her husband woke up after he felt something was wrong.
"I had just opened the door and there was just flames already," explains Jamie.
She says she quickly got everyone out of the house and called 911. Then her family called again, and again after no one showed up.
"I called again and said my daughter's house is on fire and West City has not got here yet. And they said Benton has been called, they're on their way here," explains Jamie's mother.
What started as a small fire near the Grays' new dryer, quickly spread as they waited for help.
"Upon arrival, we found that that fire had progressed into not only a room of contents fire, but also a structural fire with structural components," says Shane Cockrum with the Benton Fire Department.
Jamie's aunt Sue McClearin says Benton and Coello's fire departments all arrived before the West City volunteer firefighters and the family wants to know why.
"The fire department didn't show. You pay taxes and you got the fire department right across the street, why didn't they show?"
Officials say they didn't get toned properly for this house fire. Now city officials are investigating. But mistake or not, it cost the Grays their home. A source close to the investigation says West City has its own dispatch and uses its own frequency to tone out for fire calls, but the dispatcher on duty used the wrong frequency.
"We did offer them some ways to help through the American Red Cross and some other things," says Cockrum. "So hopefully, they'll take full advantage and they'll come back bigger and stronger."
The homeowners and their family say they don't plan to let this slide with West City.
"It will go to town hall. There's going to be answers, if we have to go sit at their front door," says McClearin.
News 3 made numerous calls to the West City Fire Chief, but they went unanswered. Mayor Chuck Cockrum says the city is conducting an internal investigation, but there was no negligence on the part of the volunteer firefighters.
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