Questions remain after fire department's response to CALL7 investigation into fatal May drowning

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Questions about dispatching procedures remain after one of several involved agencies took a public stance against a story reported by 7NEWS' CALL7 Investigators Wednesday night.

That story, entitled "Documents prompt questions regarding response time to Poudre River drownings," was based on documentation provided by the Poudre Fire Authority and Poudre Canyon Fire District regarding the May 26 drowning of 14-year-old Christopher Alania and his uncle Jose Terrel. The incident occurred within the all-volunteer Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District, but also involved the Poudre Fire Authority, Larimer County Dive and Rescue Team, Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District and others.

Wednesday's CALL7 report highlighted the nearly one hour difference between the initial alarm and ultimate dispatch of Poudre Fire Authority's Engine 2. The report also questioned the decision not to send the closest crew to the scene.

Sources initially raised their concerns with 7NEWS, saying another Poudre Fire Authority unit, Engine 7, was prepared for dispatch and approximately 5 miles closer to the incident than Engine 2. 

Following that story, Poudre Fire Authority spokesman Patrick Love replied with a press release he called "SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT-RIVER INCIDENT PFA INC. #14-6988." The numbers in that title refer to the incident tracking system employed by his department.

In his release, Love wrote, "We are very saddened at the loss of life on the Poudre River.  However, the facts of PFA’s involvement in the incident need to be set straight."

First on Love's list was the correct clarification that the Poudre Fire Authority is a separate entity from any of the other involved agencies.

He next quotes the CALL7 report's assertion that the documents show nearly an hour passed before swift-water rescue crews were dispatched. Love writes that Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Dispatchers received the call about the incident at 12:11:38, a time CALL7 is unable to confirm because Larimer County said Wednesday that their report on the incident had not received a supervisor's approval and could not be released.

However, the two incident reports provided by Love and the Poudre Fire Authority showed they received the alarm for the incident at 11:51 a.m.

Love wrote in an email Wednesday that "the 'Alarm Received' time on our RMS report…can be misleading," but did not explain why in any of his communications Thursday.

At this point, Love correctly pointed out a misattribution within the original CALL7 story that 7NEWS acknowledged and corrected online Thursday. The first published version of the report indicated incorrectly that the document detailing the alarm at 11:51 a.m. came from the Poudre Canyon Fire District, when it should have been sourced to Love and the Poudre Fire Authority -- separate organizations.

Still, the discrepancy in the time included the Poudre Fire Authority's records and the press release published by Love is unexplained. Should Love or his agency provide an explanation, 7NEWS will again update this story.

Thursday's press release provided some clarification about a directive cited in CALL7's original report. That directive dictates that the Poudre Fire Authority should dispatch Engine 7 and Boat 7 automatically to a swift-water rescue.

However, Love points out that only applies to incident within his department's jurisdiction.

"This incident occurred in Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District's jurisdiction and was dispatched accordingly," Love wrote.

Poudre Fire Authority's press release also claims Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District was "immediately dispatched" at 12:11; however, Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District's records do not support that claim. Nearly 45 minutes later than Poudre Fire Authority claims they were dispatched, Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District's incident report show their initial alarm sounded at 12:55 p.m. The record also indicates a response time at 1:10 p.m.

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