Deadly fire victim's family may receive $200,000 settlement from Polk County

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A deadly fire could cost Polk County a $200,000 settlement to the victim's family.

Months of controversy and investigations into their 76-year-old relative’s death in a house fire has lead county leaders to consider cutting a check to Lorretta Pickard’s family, according to an agenda for the Polk County Commission's upcoming meeting.

Polk County Fire Rescue has dealt with heavy criticism regarding the way first responders handled her cries for help.

In November 2018, Pickard called 911 from insider her log home in a wooded area of Bartow. For 20 minutes, the 911 dispatcher assured Pickard help was on the way. During that time, firefighters focused on the flames outside rather than a rescue. The captain in charge of the scene posted a video of the fire on Snapchat.

Pickard’s family said more should have been done to save her.

"Their No. 1 goal should have been getting her out, not waiting on things. How are you gonna wait? You see the home's on fire. It's a wooden home, get her out!" Lorretta Pickard's niece, Amber Addison told FOX 13 News.

In the months following the deadly fire, the captain in charge resigned. The Polk County fire chief also left the department after an outside investigation found firefighters failed to bring rescue equipment to forcibly get inside a house, among other failures.

Polk County commissioners heard the family’s frustrations in May.

“We wouldn’t be at this point had they just taken responsibility and done the proper things to change, to fix this,” said Addison.

As they wait for a decision on a settlement, the new Polk Fire Rescue chief is taking the findings of the outside report to heart and wants to make some costly changes to make sure firefighters are better trained and equipped to do their jobs.

Several months ago, the Pickard family talked about suing the county for their loved one’s death. Her family did not return FOX 13’s call for comment Thursday on the possible settlement. The Polk County attorney also would not comment ahead of next week’s July 16 meeting meeting.