Experience, readiness of Polk fire department at the center of report on fatal fire

A lengthy report detailing the fire the killed a 76-year-old woman and led to the resignation of a Polk Fire Rescue captain was released Monday, in advance of the next Polk County Commission meeting.

The 242-page report describes what independent investigators determined to be failures on the part of firefighters during the fire that killed Loretta Pickard inside her log cabin home in Lakeland.

"There was no indication that the [Engine 6] crew was either focused on or in a mode to perform a search and rescue after arrival," the report reads. "The officer and firefighter reported that they did not take any tools or other firefighter equipment with them to the scene."

"It's absolutely disgusting that they got a call stating that a woman was in a burning home and they did not bring the tools to rescue her. They all need to be terminated," said Amber Addison, a niece of Pickard.

In November, Pickard had been on the phone with 911 dispatch for about 20 minutes and was waiting for firefighters to try to rescue her.

One of the first firefighters on the scene was Capt. James Williams, who also didn't have a working computer, which would have included information about Pickard's location inside the home and how to enter it, according to the report.

Williams has since resigned following a brief suspension after a video he posted to Snapchat later surfaced showing Pickard's home engulfed in flames.

"I get angry and sad and disturbed. I wonder where common sense went from the very beginning," Addison said, adding she's frustrated to not learn more from the new report. "Our county has spent over 30,000 dollars on an investigation that everyone already knew from public record."

Polk Fire Rescue has defended its firefighters, saying attempts were made to enter the home but the fire was out of control and there was a down power line blocking their path.

Polk County commissioners will discuss the findings in the report Tuesday morning.