Two die in house fire; questions swirl if they could have been saved

Two people are killed in a house fire in Detroit and some firefighters say those lives could have been saved.

Resident David Lowe says Glenn Graham died trying to rescue Tanisha Lowe, his partially blind niece. A fire reduced their north end home to rubble Sunday morning.

"This is where my granddaughter died over here, and my brother in law," David Lowe said.

It is possible the tragedy could have been prevented.

"You don't go on a medical thing first, when you got a house burning down," Lowe said.

Before firefighters arrived to beat back the flames at 620 Melbourne, a squad from Engine 39 on a medical first responder run nearby, spotted the smoke in the area and phoned it in.

Dispatchers told them to stay on medical run - all the while the home was burning.

FOX 2: "Could they have saved the people in that house?"

"If they would have been responding to a fire run first, a good possibility, depending on how involved the fire was when they pulled up," said Senior Deputy Chief Jack Wiley of the Detroit Fire Department.

"Once they were responding to the medical run they have to take the medical run. We can't make those determinations which run is more important than the other one." 

To help bring down response times, Detroit firefighters began training to handle high priority medical runs in January and started responding to those calls only three weeks ago.

"Alot of it relies on training that the department needs to continue to do with our officers," said Jeff Pegg, president of the Detroit firefighter union. "Because some of it does boil down to discretion on the officers' part when it comes to certain situations."

Pegg also says there have been issues with 911 operators and the outdated system they use that prioritizes runs.

It is unclear what kind of medical first responder call the squad from engine 39 was responding to, and it wasn't clear just how bad this fire was.

"I think if they would've responded earlier they might have would've saved them," Lowe said. "I really believe that."

The fire department is reviewing the case and examining how it responds to medical first responder calls with the new cross-training program.

The cause of the house fire is still under investigation.

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