House fire highlights 911 issues; JSO pulling officers from the street to fill in as emergency dispatchers

Abandoned home destroyed in fire highlighted issues with 911. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A house fire on the Northside is drawing attention to a shortage of emergency dispatchers in Jacksonville.

The fire destroyed a vacant house on New Berlin Road on Monday night and one person who tried calling for help said no one was answering 911 calls.

In a social media post, the woman said she noticed the fire just after 11 p.m. last and called 911 and no one answered. She said eventually a police officer pulled up with their lights on while she was screaming about the fire but they never got out of the car, and then the doors and windows of the house exploded.

“What the hell is going on with 911?” she asked in her post.

News4JAX put that question to Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters.

“I don’t know, we’re looking into it. We’re going to find out exactly what happened. I think it’s important for us to address we’ve been working extremely hard on our manpower issues and getting that fixed,” Waters said. “But I can tell you this. Normally, if our officer drives up on something like that, you pick up the radio so you don’t have to call 911. Radio gets you right to where you need to go.”

Waters stressed that the problem has to do with hiring people to work in dispatch. Waters said JSO is pulling officers from the street to fill some of those positions.

According to News4JAX Crime and Safety analyst Lakeisha Burton, a recently retired JSO Assistant Chief, that’s been going on for almost a year.

On JSO’s website, a job posting for a dispatcher is offering a $5,000 signing bonus.

News4JAX did learn that once the fire department got word of the blaze they responded immediately, but the home is a complete loss.

The home is owned by a company that did not want to comment.

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Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.