Though a telephone line went dead and caused a few minutes' delay in dispatching help, a fire Saturday morning at a house on James Island was handled exactly as it should have been, authorities said Tuesday.
Chief Thomas Carr of the Charleston Fire Department, Chief Chris Seybolt of the James Island Fire Department and Jim Lake of Charleston County's Consolidated Dispatch Center held a press conference to respond to questions about a fire at 1564 Clark Sound Circle.
The house was badly damaged and its occupants were injured, but they were rescued by two residents who got there before any firefighters arrived, Carr said.
An off-duty Mount Pleasant firefighter and another passerby rescued the occupants, a paraplegic and his caretaker. They both were taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. Information about their condition was not available.
The house is in the Bayview Farms subdivision off Fort Johnson Road, which is in the city of Charleston.
The city has received some criticism from people who wondered why the engine from the closest fire station, Station No. 7 at Fort Johnson and Camp roads, was not dispatched, officials said.
The crew from Station 7 was out of the firehouse all day, training at the city's training area on Milford Street, Carr said. Station 7 is 1.2 miles from the scene of the fire.
The next-closest firehouse is James Island's at Harborview Road and Mikell Drive, which is 1.4 miles from the fire. The crew from that station was the first to arrive. Other James Island units also responded, as well as units from the St. Andrews Fire Department.
The city's other fire station on James Island, Engine 113 on Folly Road, was answering a call, extricating someone from a wrecked vehicle, Carr said. The closest city unit was Truck 105, which came from Savannah Highway. "Everything worked just the way it was supposed to work," Carr said. "We just wanted to make sure the citizens knew they were well protected. Three years ago, we wouldn't have even talked to each other."
Since he was named fire chief in 2008, the city has developed mutual aid relationships in which city firefighters work especially close with firefighters from James Island, as well as the St. Andrews, St. John's, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant fire departments. The departments train and drill together and often respond to fire calls together, Carr said.
Seybolt also said the neighboring departments work very well together. He said he was notified of the fire and, though he was not on duty, he responded from his home and arrived about 20 minutes after the call was dispatched. "When I got there, the fire was already out," Seybolt said.
Jim Lake, director of the Consolidated Dispatch Center, said the first call came from inside the house at 9:28 a.m. He said that call was received by the city of Charleston dispatchers, who transferred it to the Consolidated Dispatch Center. The resident was giving information when the call was disconnected, he said. The call taker tried twice to call back, to verify the information, but got no answer. Another call came in from a neighbor at 9:29 a.m. and at 9:32, the dispatcher notified the appropriate units, Lake said.
The first unit arrived on the scene nine minutes after the initial call, four minutes after being dispatched, Lake said. "It is a good time, but it is not the best time," he said. The line going dead on the initial call added to the response time, he said.
Investigators have determined the fire was caused by a clothes dryer in the rear of the garage.