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E911 Responds to House Fire Using Cell Phone Tracking

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MARLOW, Okla_ 7News has new information on the fire in Marlow that burned a home to the ground Sunday night.

The woman who called 911 is not from this area and was so panicked she couldn't tell dispatchers her address. That's when the Enhanced-911 software did its job and locked onto the precise location of her cell phone. 

The home was deemed a complete loss after just five minutes of burning. Police say emergency responders were able to get to the people at the home as quickly as possible to keep it from spreading to surrounding homes.

Here's how the emergency call happened.

Dispatcher: "E911 what is your emergency?"

Caller: "What street? We have a fire and on Sage Brush or Sage Land? And? Uh? I don't the street number! I don't know the street number?!"

Dispatcher: "Hang on, you're on Rose? Ma'am? Hello?"

Caller: "Hurry!"

Marlow Police Chief Jimmy Williams said while the dispatch operator was on the line, they were looking at a map that showed where the woman's phone was, as she still struggled to give a location.

"We don't have any idea where we live!" the caller shouted. "Charlie? Where is it? I don't know?!"

"Ma'am are you on Rose Road just south of Marlow?" replied the dispatcher.

Caller: "I don't know!"

The dispatcher was confident the information on his screen did put the caller's location on Rose Road. So, he sent help that way.

"Attention Marlow firefighters, attention Marlow firefighters," the dispatcher transmitted. "I have a structure fire on Rose Road South of Marlow, just east of Highway 81."

The dispatcher kept the woman on the line and continued to try and get any information that could narrow down where the woman's phone was pinging from. The woman was still too distraught to tell him where they were.

"In a traumatic time, whether it's a medical call or fire, you're conscious that you need help," Chief Jimmy Williams said. "You don't always stay calm and realize you got to give a location, you'll say, ‘Get them here!', and they don't understand we need location to get them to right place."

"Can you tell me how far south you are?" The dispatcher asked the woman.

"No," she replied. "You'll see the fire."

"I know," the dispatcher said. "I have people trying to find you, but I'm trying to give directions to the firefighters."

Fortunately, Williams said the ping came back within meters of the woman's phone.

"Firefighters are on their way," the dispatcher assured the woman. "They'll be their shortly, okay? Just speak with the deputy and everything will be alright."

"Okay, Bye Bye," the woman said.


Williams said firefighters were able to find the woman and her boyfriend. While they lost their home, surrounding properties were saved. He said E-911 isn't perfect and doesn't always get so lucky in pinpointing a person's location. He said that's why it's important for dispatchers to remain on the line and get further information while calming the caller.

Initially, State Fire Marshals said the fire may have started after a circuit was overloaded with power tools while the home was under going renovation.

Tuesday, investigators ruled out that cause and say the fire ignited after a wood burning stove was left open and embers erupted.



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