911 Operator Puts Caller on Hold; Woman Dies in Fire

A disabled woman who called 911 to report a fire in her bedroom was put on hold and later died in the blaze, a newspaper reported.

It took seven rings — about 27 seconds — before a 911 operator picked up the call from Brenda Orr, according to The Intelligencer of Doylestown. Orr was then put on hold for another 27 seconds, the paper reported Friday.

Orr died in the Jan. 29 fire.

"We're concerned about the minute that's missing," Doylestown Police Chief James Donnelly said this week. "Had we had that minute, I'm not saying for sure that we could have saved her, but we would have been a minute closer."

Police, fire and emergency services logs show agencies were dispatched to Orr's Doylestown home at 10:33 a.m., two minutes after she called 911. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 10:35 a.m. It took them more than 30 minutes to get most of the fire extinguished.

Donnelly said the fire was caused by careless smoking, though the official fire report leaves the cause as undetermined. A friend of Orr's told police that Orr, who had multiple sclerosis and was bed-bound, had a habit of smoking in bed.

Bucks County officials acknowledged proper procedures were not followed in responding to Orr's call, but would not discuss the case in detail.

The Intelligencer used a right-to-know request to obtain the emergency communications log, a police report, the county fire marshal's report, internal police memos and a recording of the 911 call.