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“REPONSE TO COMMISSIONER”

Dear Editor,

This is pretty sad. Our family just lost our home and everything in it to the fire and instead of just offering his condolences, the newly confirmed Commissioner decides to go on the defensive. First off, we (the family) NEVER attempted to put the fire out before contacting 911.

All of us who were at home were downstairs when the neighbors ran over yelling that the house was on fire. We exited the home and saw black smoke coming out from the windows and door on the second floor. No flames were yet visible from outside the house. This is when we made the FIRST CALL TO 911 even though the neighbors had informed us that they already called 911 to report the fire.

The smoke was overwhelming at this point and we all moved away from the house. An officer arrived at the scene just minutes after we evacuated the house and stood with us on the east side of the house as we watched the house later burst into flames. It might be noteworthy to know that the hose is located on the opposite side of where we evacuated. Two more calls were made to 911 after we and several eyewitnesses stood from a distance and just watched the flames engulf the entire second floor.

Monday’s article quotes the new Commissioner as saying that “the firefighters arrived at the scene within ten minutes of receiving THE CALL.” Which call was this? We did not panic! What seemed like a LONG WAIT was actually a LONG WAIT, despite what was reported to the Commissioner in their SELF-REPORTED timeline.

Fortunately, in this day and age, technology, along with several eye witnesses who waited with us, aid us in disputing the Commissioner’s claim. We have a time-stamped video retrieved from one of the eye witnesses showing that the firefighters ARRIVED MORE THAN 10 MINUTES AFTER OUR LAST CALL TO 911. According to our phone records, our FIRST CALL to 911 and LAST CALL were 10 minutes apart. You do the math! When the flames engulfed the second floor, we knew it was too late to save the house. But had they shown up in 10 minutes, and perhaps with more than JUST ONE FIRE TRUCK (or was there another fire on island?), the first floor and a lot of the items in it could have been saved.

Our suggestion to our new Commissioner is that he also be “prudent” in his analysis of the incident before making ridiculous accusations to the media. The Department’s self-reported timeline should have also been compared to the statements from the family and witnesses who were actually there when the incident occurred.

The story also states that “the fire started due to an overload of the electrical panel…and the wires in the panel caught on fire on the second floor.” The panel is located on the first floor. Immediately following their investigation, the Fire Chief showed us two outlets, both from the second floor, which he pointed out as the origin of the fire. To further dispute the 10 minute claim, one of the firefighters who returned to assist in the investigation the following day offered his apologies for the delay in their response.

So far, we’ve been lucky that no fatalities have come out of the recent fires. But there may come a time when a fire starts at night while the family is asleep and the Fire Dept’s swift - not prudent - response time can mean the difference between life and death. Instead of wasting time disputing our story, they could have spent the day reviewing their protocols and identifying where critical changes were needed rather than denying that any of the issues even exist!

Our family is coping with a tragic loss and we do not need unfounded, premature remarks being thrown around in the media to add to our misfortune.

We have no intention of filing a lawsuit because, unfortunately, ASG’s incompetence becomes a tax payers’ burden. Everyone came out of this incident ALIVE, the Firefighters did an excellent job of containing the fire when they got there, and that’s all that matters right now.

Evelyn Tu’ugaolo Sao-Stevens



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