Lack of cell service delays 911 fire call

Kumi Tucker
Updated: April 19, 2021 08:35 PM
Created: April 19, 2021 06:08 PM

MEDUSA - A family of five didn't have long to get out of the house as a fire spread. To call 911, they had to get into a van and drive to another location at a time when every second counted.

They escaped with just the clothes on their backs. 

The fire in Medusa, Albany County last week was ferocious.

Tammy Holmes is blind and in a wheelchair, and her two grandchildren have autism. 

The family piled into the van and drove frantically to get a signal, as the fire quickly grew behind them. 

"We should have been able to pick up our phones and say we have an emergency, we have a fire, please come, and not have the call dropped on us in the middle of explaining to dispatch where we are," said Ashley Lambert.  

Tanya Hanna, a firefighter herself, wanted to tell firefighters about possible hazards, like the oxygen cylinders for Tammy. It's information she should have been able to relay over the phone. 

"So it's not only putting our lives in danger, it's putting the first responders, the firefighters, the paramedics, the people we depend on to save our lives -- it's putting them in danger too," said Hanna.

While they worry about getting medical supplies and wheelchairs for Tammy, they are grateful for the generosity of the community, including help from Greenville Elementary. 

They want to thank all the first responders. 

They say it's frustrating that the towers are there, just no service. 

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple has been working with the Legislature and some major carriers for about a year to identify the many voids in the county. 

"I understand that it usually comes down to dollars and cents, right," said Sheriff Apple. "But we have the infrastructure in place for major carriers to go on our towers, and really you'd be saving lives, is what you'd be doing."

"This has been an ongoing issue and I feel like it's time that somebody holds them accountable and makes this happen," said Lambert.

MORE INFORMATION: GoFundMe to help Lambert Family

Copyright 2021 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company