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Posted July 17, 2008 EST

Home Burns Down While Firefighters Search For It
United States (Illinois) - Firefighters sent to the wrong address lost valuable time Tuesday night in responding to a blaze at the home of an attorney and his wife in rural Foster Township. Robert and Linda Forbes waited and watched helplessly as flames engulfed their two-story house in Lakelynn Estates, off Seminary Road, shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday. The couple lives in the 100 block of Lake Drive, approximately 7 miles from the intersection of Homer Adams Parkway and Seminary Street.

"I watched my house burn to the ground and couldn't do anything," Linda Forbes said.

Linda Forbes said that once firefighters arrived, they did a great job of knocking down the blaze; however, most of the damage was done before they arrived. She said after firefighters arrived at the scene, she learned they had been sent to the wrong address.

"We waited about 15 to 20 minutes for them to arrive," she said.

The Madison County Sheriff's Department dispatcher received the 911 call at 6:48 p.m. and sent firefighters to a Wellesley Place address approximately 4 miles south from the Forbes house, which also is off Seminary Road.

William Gamblin, Madison County's 911 coordinator, did not return telephone calls to The Telegraph on Wednesday to explain how the misunderstanding involving the fire's location may have happened

Chief John Holtorf with Fosterburg Fire Protection District said the mishap likely occurred with how the call was made.

"I believe the 911 call came from a cell phone," Holtorf said.

Because more and more people are using cell phones, addresses are not as easy to locate for emergency operators. Although information from a cell phone is available to a 911 call-taker, it is limited.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for the regulation of the 911 Emergency Telephone System, when a person calls 911 from a direct landline, information is sent to a computer in the dispatch center showing the number and address of where the call was made. The call received from a landline phone appears on a map.

When a person makes a 911 call from a cell phone, it sends signals through the air, and the nearest cell phone tower picks up the signals. The FCC says it's critical that a call-taker gets an exact address of the emergency before the caller hangs up, or they will be unable to send emergency to the correct address.

The number of 911 calls received by the Public Safety Answering Point also can affect how emergency service providers are dispatched to a scene. The calls are answered in the order that they are received. A person driving past a scene could be the first person to call in; a second caller may be told that authorities have received a call and that emergency providers already are on their way to the scene.

Holtorf said when Fosterburg firefighters arrived at the wrong address, they didn't see a fire, so they radioed for the Godfrey and Brighton-Betsey Ann fire protection districts to slow down their mutual aid response.

"Then, we got the second call with the correct address," he said.

The Cottage Hills and Dorsey fire protection districts also responded to the blaze. Nearly three dozen firefighters were on the scene and helped man Fosterburg's fire stations.

Holtorf said approximately 15 minutes passed between the first call out and the time firefighters arrived on the scene.

"Unfortunately, 15 minutes of fire is a lot of fire," he said.

Holtorf said a fire investigation determined the blaze was accidental and started under the deck of the house. He said one of the homeowners had been operating a lawnmower for several hours and then parked the hot machinery under the deck when they were done, which slowly ignited the timbers on the deck.

He said dead grass and engine fluids, combined with heat, are what appear to be responsible for sparking the blaze in the confined area. Once the fire started, it spread across the deck and went into the kitchen area of the house, Holtorf said.

"It was a tricky blaze to knock down, because it spread into the attic and went into both wings of the house," he said. 'We were fighting fire at both ends."

The blaze destroyed the majority of the Forbes' house, burning through the roof and into the second floor, completing gutting the property.

Holtorf said firefighters were on the scene until nearly 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and returned early Wednesday to snuff out some smoldering insulation.

The Forbes met with their insurance agent Wednesday morning to find out what will happen to the house they've lived in for the past 12 years and any belongings that were not damaged.

Linda Forbes was able to go in and get some of her clothing, so she would have attire for her job as a court reporter for Madison County Circuit Court. Robert Forbes is an attorney.

Linda Forbes said she also was able to retrieve family photographs, her grandmother's oil paintings and several other sentimental items from the house.

"Nothing else really matters," she said.

She said everything else could be replaced.

The couple currently is staying at a hotel; however, Linda Forbes said friends have offered them a place to stay. The couple said they are relieved that no one was hurt.

The FCC has adopted rules aimed at improving the reliability of wireless 911 services and the accuracy of the location information transmitted with a wireless 911 call. The FCC's wireless 911 rules apply to all wireless licensees.

Wireless carriers in Madison County must provide Public Safety Answering Points- the agencies responsible for answering 911 calls -- with the telephone number of the originator of a wireless 911 call and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call. The carriers also must provide PSAPs with the latitude and longitude of the caller.

The information is required to be accurate to within 50 to 300 meters from the caller's location.

Written by The Telegraph

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix

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