General Question

talljasperman's avatar

Did I make a mistake in calling 911?

Asked by talljasperman (21820points) June 17th, 2014

If all I saw is billowing smoke from someone’s back yard and I smelt wet bark burring ? And I couldn’t get any closer because I was in a third floor balcony in my PJ’s and trees are in the way?
So I called yesterday about a house fire and I got hell from the fire department for calling (basically not to call again unless I actually see fire)? I had thought that It is the 911 operators call. By the time that the fire truck and ambulance came the smoke had diminished considerably and they drove around a couple of times. I was told that It was a backyard fire pit.
It is frustrating I did what I thought was right.

I’m wondering if the fire marshal had a bad day. He said that the resources were needed elsewhere that day?

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24 Answers

longgone's avatar

Better safe than sorry. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not
Iike you called for fun…

tinyfaery's avatar

I’d say you jumped the gun. Unless you see a fire you should not report one.

911 and emergency services cannot be squandered away on mistaken calls. They are already too busy.

Seek's avatar

Meaning their dinner got cold whist they were checking on that fire.

Seriously. How often do firemen actually get called to tend on a fire anymore? There’s a reason all of them have to also be EMTs – because they’d never have anything to do otherwise.

Sorry, I’ve just heard more shit recently about 911 operators doing a crappy job… this happened a few miles from my old home.

tinyfaery's avatar

Oh, Florida. That’s totally expected.

dappled_leaves's avatar

What you could have done instead of calling 911 right away is to go outside and look to see if there was really a fire. Do not call 911 unless you have a real emergency. If this happens again, they could charge you with mischief.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Some lady rang my doorbell once to alert me that my roof was on fire. It was the moisture from my dryer vent. She was just trying to help, idiotic but just trying to help so I was very nice to her. You jumped the gun but the fire marshal should have been more respectful.

johnpowell's avatar

I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it. You even said yourself that you thought it was a house fire. I would have done the same.

LostInParadise's avatar

I agree with you that it is their call. Assuming that you described the situation to 911 the same way that you did here, it is up to them whether the situation merits further investigation.

gailcalled's avatar

Could you have thrown a coat over your pajamas and gone downstairs to investigate?

talljasperman's avatar

@gailcalled No there is no pedestrian access from my side.

johnpowell's avatar

So lets say that it was a real fire and a baby was in a the room. Minutes could be important.

Imagine the question was, “I decided to not call 911 when I saw a fire and a baby died. Should I feel bad?”

Hindsight is 20/20.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Judgement call. The real expense of an engine company responding to a call can be expensive for an underfunded fire dept., as the majority of them probably are. On the other hand, if you’d ignored the smoke, and the house had gone up, then what? Reasonable false alarms come with the gig for a fire dept. It’s not as if you call once a week.

Pachy's avatar

You were smart to call. No harm, no foul.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

There was a fire over here recently and the whole house (2 story, 3 bedroom) burned to the ground in no time at all. By the time the fire department arrived (within 5 – 10 minutes of someone sighting the smoke) the place was an inferno and all the FD could do was prevent the fire’s spread to the neighboring dwellings.

You did the right thing, brah.

GloPro's avatar

The firemen in California are working their asses off. There was no break in the fire season from last season to this one because of the drought. Maybe the firemen in Florida should come help out. Several other states have sent crews.

If that situation happened to me I would have called the non-emergency line. We have controlled burns every time the conditions are optimal, so there is frequently the smell and sight of smoke. The non-emergency line can tell you if there is known fire activity in your area, and send someone out to further evaluate pretty quickly without rousing the entire force.

Don’t feel guilty. That was not an abuse of the system. Kind of lazy, but not abuse of the system.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it’s fine that you called. One time I called about smoke and the 911 operator asked me some questions about the color of the smoke and some other things. Better to call than there be a fire and no one calls. If you don’t call 911 ten times a year I don’t see why they would be so angry. Abuse of 911 is horrible, but it doesn’t sound like you abuse it.

Certain things I just call the local police or fire dept directly. That way it doesn’t clog up the 911 lines.

flutherother's avatar

Why can’t the fire department use drones to assess the source and the seriousness of fires before sending a fire crew?

cazzie's avatar

I used to work for the fire service in New Zealand. We would have taken your call out and it would have been considered good faith. Each crew chief was different, but the pros weren’t the type to ball out the public. Some of the volunteer guys would have been pissed, because the come from their regular jobs. We used to get calls like yours direct to our office, if a person wasnt sure. We pretty much asked if they would please phone ‘111’ instead. Explained that if it turned out to be nothing, they would not be treated as a nuisance call. They were calling out of real concern.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@cazzie I think you meant “bawl out,” though if not, I’m extra glad that your fire department was not the type. ;)

snowberry's avatar

@cazzie has a good point. Next time @talljasperman, try calling the general number and make sure you actually speak to someone, and let them figure it out. It might save you some trouble.

cheebdragon's avatar

The only time I call 911 is when I’m driving and I see something concerning….for example, I was getting off the freeway early one morning and saw the rear end of a car that had crashed Into some trees at the bottom of an embankment. It was dark outside and nothing I could do personally so I just gave dispatch the location and details I knew. Another time I was driving late at night and it was almost completely black on the freeway, there was a sprinkler broken on the side of the road that was shooting water full blast (Think fire hydrant pressure) directing into the 3rd lane…..scared the flying fuck out of me because it was freezing outside and with it being so dark I had very little warning of something so unsuspecting, the water hitting my car sounded like thunder and it had been hitting the road for awhile because giant puddle had formed causing the car to hydroplane for a few seconds. If I had been on a motorcycle it would have probably killed me, so I called 911 and explained the situation, they called back to thank me for reporting it.

cazzie's avatar

@dappledleaves. Ooops. My English eludes me at times. Perhaps I was ‘tenker koffert’ as we say in Norwegian.

c0nfus3d's avatar

As was said before, it’s definitely better to be safe rather than sorry. Had I seen what you described I probably would have called as well. If there had been an actual fire somewhere you could have saved lives as well as property. I would think that the fire department would be grateful for the call because if you didn’t see flame it probably would have been a small enough fire that they could have saved most of the house. But I guess some people don’t see things that way. To wait until you see fire is ridiculous because by that time it could be too late and people could have gotten hurt. I think you did the right thing by calling and I think that the fire marshall needs to chill out.

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