Owners of Destroyed Home Question 911 Response

By Eric King
|  Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013  |  Updated 9:41 AM CDT
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A Johnson County home was destroyed by fire Friday night and the homeowners say when they called 911 dispatchers hung up without sending help.

Eric King, NBC 5 News

A Johnson County home was destroyed by fire Friday night and the homeowners say when they called 911 dispatchers hung up without sending help.

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Members of a North Texas family say they had to wait too long for help when their Venus home caught fire Friday night.

Lori and John Hensley say a 911 operator hung during one of their calls to 911 after a fire started in their home in the 2600 block of Howell Drive at about 8 p.m.

The Hensleys said family members and friends who were at the home initially tried to fight the blaze themselves and then called 911 as it started to grow.

The first call was made from the home's landline and answered by a dispatcher in Johnson County, they said.

At least two other 911 calls were placed on cellphones and were answered by operators in Mansfield, they said. One of the operators hung up.

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"He said, 'Listen, we have women and children, the elderly and a baby.' "He says, 'We need someone here, and we need them here now,' and he was hung up on," Lori Hensley said.

Ultimately, crews from multiple cities arrived. The city of Mansfield said in a statement that its fire department was the first on the scene and stayed for more than four hours.

"Mansfield received a request from Johnson County Friday evening to provide mutual aid to a house fire not in Mansfield's jurisdiction," city spokeswoman Belinda Willis said.

Mansfield released a statement on the fire:

STATEMENT REGARDING MARCH 29 HOUSE FIRE IN UNINCORPORATED RURAL JOHNSON COUNTY, TEXAS

Mansfield Police & Fire Dispatch received its first call, on the published non-emergency line, as a mutual aid request from Johnson County Fire Dispatch at approximately 8:10 p.m. Friday, March 29, 2013, to provide assistance to a possible structure fire located at 2644 Howell Drive situated in unincorporated rural Johnson County, and outside of the city limits of Mansfield. Mansfield Fire Rescue was dispatched at approximately 8:12 p.m., responded at approximately 8:14 p.m. and arrived on the scene at approximately 8:22 p.m. The department provided one engine, one Quint, one ambulance, a command vehicle with a total of nine firefighter/paramedics to the scene. Mansfield Fire Rescue personnel were first on the scene and remained on the scene for more than four hours.

Mansfield Police & Fire Dispatchers received multiple calls from people on the scene after Mansfield Fire & Rescue had already been dispatched. Mansfield operators told callers on several occasions that fire personnel had already been dispatched to the scene and were en route. A review of the Mansfield 911 tapes have determined that all 911 calls made to the Mansfield Dispatch Center were made after the Mansfield Fire & Rescue had been dispatched to 2644 Howell Drive. One operator did disengage one call after determining the call was in regards to the house fire on Howell Drive in which personnel and equipment had already been dispatched.

Mansfield is across the street from the Hensleys' home, and a Mansfield fire station is about one mile away.

The fire destroyed their home of six years, and the Hensleys are questioning whether they want to rebuild or leave. The couple said they are trying to understand what went wrong in communication, saying they don't want something similar to happen to their neighbors.

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