Firefighter's Widow Gets Millions in Settlement
San Francisco Chronicle via YellowBrix
February 10, 2011
SAN PABLO — The widow of one of two Contra Costa County firefighters who died in a 2007 house fire will receive $4.6 million to settle her wrongful-death lawsuit against two security companies she blamed for mishandling the initial report of the blaze.
The fire at 149 Michele Drive in San Pablo killed fire Engineer Scott Desmond, 37, of Brentwood and Capt. Matt Burton, 34, of Concord. It also killed the home’s residents, Delbert Moore, 67, and his wife, Gayle, 62.
Desmond’s widow, Carolyn, and her son sued in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2008, saying Pinnacle Security of Utah and its subcontractor Security Associates International of Illinois were to blame for the firefighter’s death.
When the fire broke out early July 21, 2007, Security Associates received an automatic smoke alarm from the home. A company employee identified only as Kendra activated a two-way intercom at the home and asked, “Is everything OK?”
Gayle Moore responded, “No, we have a fire,” said the suit filed by Walnut Creek attorney Andrew Schwartz.
Kendra called the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District on a nonemergency line and said, “I’m calling to report a fire alarm,” as opposed to an actual fire, the suit said. That led the fire dispatcher to consider it a lower-priority call, the suit said.
At one point, Kendra was put on hold for five minutes while the dispatcher answered emergency calls and the fire in the Moore home grew, the suit said.
It was nearly 10 minutes after Gayle Moore spoke to the alarm company before firefighters were sent to the scene, and even then only one engine was initially dispatched, with Desmond and Burton aboard, the suit said.
Pinnacle Security will pay $2.6 million to Desmond’s family, and Security Associates International will pay $2 million. The companies will pay an additional $350,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Moores’ children.
Burton was a 10-year veteran of the fire district, and Desmond had served for eight years. They were the first firefighters in the Contra Costa district’s history to be killed in the line of duty.
Investigators concluded that the fire had been caused by a cigarette in a bedroom that ignited combustible material.