POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The family of a Lakeland woman killed in a house fire is stunned after a new report shows first responders made a lot of mistakes.
- Death investigation report released
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"It just seems like common sense wasn't there," said Amber Addison, the victim's niece.
In November 23, 2018, 76-year-old Loretta Pickard was trapped inside her Lakeland home while it was on fire. Polk County Fire Rescue firefighters reportedly never went into the house to attempt to rescue her.
The 242-page independent report into the agency's response to the situation that night delivered several key findings:
- It was never made clear to firefighters that Pickard, who was on the phone with 911, was the same person who was in the house. The report says that was due to lack of communication — the computer that firefighters use that had information about the victim's location and condition was down that night, and that information was also never said over radios, either.
- Firefighters did not have life-saving equipment for search-and-rescue with them, and had “tunnel vision” to just focus on getting the fire out rather than make a rescue.
In addition, the report says there’s concern about "subpar performances" getting corrected in Polk County Fire Rescue.
"This isn’t a minor job. This is something where discipline needs to be top notch. That cannot be lacking at such an important job," Addison said.
Fire Captain James Williams resigned after he was accused of posting video of the fire on Snapchat.
The report goes on to say that several changes, including training, should be put into place.
"We need to keep our county safe," Addison said. "These are changes that need to be made in order to keep our county safe. That’s our number one goal."
In an earlier report, firefighters say it was too dangerous for them to enter the house. Polk County leaders are expected to respond to the new report at a press conference Tuesday morning.