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Fire shakes faith in emergency response

A Foster Road house still smolders a day after burning down, Sept. 7. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
September 15, 2010 - Living in Independence Township for the past seven years, Diane and Jon Alband never worried about fire protection.

They do now, after a house fire on their road, Sept. 7.

"It was a very poor response," Diane Alband said. "Thank God no one was home."

According to 911 dispatch records, requested under the Freedom of Information Act, the first Springfield Township unit was dispatched at 4:15 p.m.

With high winds that afternoon, the call was for downed power lines in the 7000 block of Foster Road off Dixie Highway, near the border of Springfield and Independence townships. They arrived at 4:27 p.m., said Springfield Township Fire Department Chief Charlie Oaks.

Finding live wires across the road, they blocked the road to traffic. Firefighters and sheriff's deputies saw smoke rising nearby to the west, and called it in, according to police reports. By that time, a house in the 8000 block of Foster Road was fully ablaze. Residents were not home at the time and no one was injured in the fire.

The house was located in Springfield Township, but first responders thought it was in Independence Township. Independence fire trucks were dispatched, with Springfield and White Lake departments assisting.

Access from Dixie Highway was blocked by the wires, so they had to take a longer route from the other side, arriving at the scene at 4:50 p.m.

Alband called 911 to report the burning house, remembering the time as about 4:20 p.m. Dispatch records her time as 4:48 p.m.

A neighbor told her he called 911 earlier, at about 4 p.m.. While waiting for fire trucks to arrived, she also saw a neighbor with a shovel attempt to dig a fire break, she said.

"I couldn't see the house – it was totally engulfed. I've never seen anything like it," Alband said. "Why did it take so long? We pay such high taxes for this, and that could have happened to any of us on that street."

Records provided do not include any calls about the fire before 4:37 p.m.

The house, located at the bottom of a long, sloped driveway on a heavily wooded lot, was completely destroyed.

"When I got to the scene, the house was totally involved," Oaks said. "Nothing could be saved."

The fire is under investigation.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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