DIXFIELD — A cell phone call routed to the wrong county cost emergency crews critical time in a late-night Saturday fire that leveled a Dixfield home.
"Definitely the delay in proper notification had a significant impact," said Dixfield Fire chief Scott Dennett. "It was 20 minutes before we were toned out from when the call was initially reported to a dispatch center."
The blaze at 711 Weld St., which is Route 142, was initially reported by a passerby on their cell phone at about 10:30 p.m. The home is located close to the Oxford-Franklin county line and the call was initially routed to the dispatch center in Franklin County, according to Dennett. Fire crews from Carthage and Weld were dispatched to somewhere around the county line, but were unable to locate the home. A second call came in around 10:50 p.m. to the Mexico Police Department and was routed to the 911 center in Oxford County, which dispatched firefighters from Dixfield, who arrived on scene minutes later.
But by the time crews arrived, Dennett said the one-and-half story, chalet-style home was fully engulfed in flames. The home was owned by Lisa Bourgeois, who was out with her family at a Fourth of July celebration when the blaze broke out. Dennett said he was not sure how many other people lived in the home. More than 30 firefighters from Dixfield, Carthage, Weld, Peru, Mexico and Rumford responded.
Dennett said fire crews knocked down the blaze within an hour and cleared the scene at 2:07 a.m. Crews returned to the home twice thereafter — first at 3:33 a.m. and again at 10 a.m. — to extinguish hot spots buried beneath collapsed material.
He requested an investigation into the fire by the State Fire Marshall's Office, but added that there could be difficulty due to the extent of damage to the home. Several animals made it safely out of the blaze, though a pet iguana appeared to have been lost as of Saturday night.
Dennett stressed that improvements need to be made to the 911 system — especially with regards to cell phones being routed to the right counties. He added on the other hand that he does not know the technology needed to make that happen for rural areas like westem Maine.
"At this point, it's pure speculation as to what the cause of the blaze might have been," Dennett said.