Harford County officials yesterday released a recording of the 911 calls connected to the Abingdon fire January 18 that killed five members of the Shropshire family. Those family members are being remembered today in a funeral service at Mountain Christian Church, which the family opened to the public to thank them for their support in the tragedy’s wake. The release of the calls came after heated discussions arose about how quickly the area’s volunteer firefighters were able to respond to the fast-moving blaze. Contributors to a firefighting message board called TheWatchDesk.com ran their version of a timeline of 911 calls. Harford County officials released their version yesterday and told the Baltimore Sun:
“The call takers and dispatchers involved in this tragedy exercised appropriate judgment and performed in a professional manner under very difficult circumstances,” Ernie Crist, the county’s emergency operations chief, said at a news conference at the county’s emergency operations center in Forest Hill.”
According to the Sun story, Rich Gardiner, a spokesman for Harford County’s volunteer firefighters officials described the fact that a certified driver for the fire engine from the Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company, eight-tenths of a mile from the fire scene, wasn’t immediately available “bad luck.”
“We have been talking in general about paid personnel to implement volunteers at the stations,” Gardiner said. “This is not something you can do overnight. We know we will need this in the future. When, we don’t know, but we want to be ready.”
“We do admit there are issues with response times,” he added.
Click here for the Baltimore Sun’s audio of the 911 calls. It includes some graphic content.