(North Carolina) -
A power outage that took down Moore County's 911 operation during a house fire Sunday morning was caused by a backup system that was supposed to protect against such circumstances, County Manager Wayne Vest said. A fire chief said the house likely could not have been saved even if the 911 system was working.
Vest said a device that is supposed to provide backup service blew out a circuit board that caused the circuit breaker providing power to the 911 center to trip. The equipment is only about 30 days old, he said.
A technician, Vest said, is supposed to repair the device today, and determine what caused the failure.
Meanwhile, the county has installed other devices to protect against a similar occurrence, he said.
Vest said that once the device that failed is repaired, the other equipment will become "a backup to the backup."
The system was not working when a resident on Birch Drive tried to call 911 dispatchers to let them know a house across the street was on fire. The house is at the end of a dirt and gravel road in a neighborhood off N.C. 690 between Vass and Spring Lake.
Steve Markham lived at the house in the 100 block of Birch Drive in Vass, said Fire Chief Kenneth Mackey of Crains Creek Fire Department.
The fire was already going through the roof when the neighbor tried to call 911, Mackey said.
"Even if it would have come in when he tried to call, I don't think it would have made much difference," Mackey said.
After the neighbor across the street from the house couldn't get through to 911 operators, he called the nephew of Deputy Chief Robert Fowler Sr., Mackey said. The nephew called Fowler, who contacted Moore County Emergency Services on his radio.
"I just happened to be awake and heard him on the radio," Mackey said.
The chief said he immediately headed to the fire station, where he contacted firefighters using a backup pager system.
"It's just something we put in place ourselves here at the station," he said.
Mackey said he and Fowler took a firetruck to the house, which is about three or four miles from the station. He said it took them about five or six minutes to get there.
The roof had fallen in and the walls were burning when they arrived, Mackey said.
Firefighters from Crains Creek and others from four nearby stations contained the blaze, Mackey said.
The Moore County Fire Marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire, he said.
Written by Steve DeVane