WILKES-BARRE — It’s the next-to-last item on a two-page “Personnel Transactions” report posted on the Luzerne County website, and it reveals that Debra Pac was the 911 dispatcher fired June 3 following alleged dispatching mistakes in a fatal fire.
Pac was hired in February 2011. The fire occurred May 15 in the Mocanaqua section of Conyngham Township, where Michelle Dzoch, 52, died in a blaze that a fire marshal said started on the second floor of a home she was renting at 76 Main St.
Her body was found on the second floor, where the roof had collapsed
Dzoch was pronounced dead at the scene, though her daughter and two grandchildren got out of the house safely. The cause of the fire was later determined to be a lighter with which the children, ages 3 and 5, had been playing.
Questions arose almost immediately about an apparent delay in response time. A review of county 911 dispatch logs showed that, at 10:47 a.m., firefighters were initially sent to Main Street in Conyngham Borough, just north of Hazleton and about 14 miles from Mocanaqua. Records showed firefighters were dispatched to the correct address at 10:53 a.m.
County Coroner William Lisman ruled Dzoch’s death as accidental, caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. He said it was impossible to determine an exact time of death or whether summoning fire crews five minutes earlier would have made a difference.
County officials initially suspended two 911 dispatchers without pay and launched an investigation, but only one was terminated on June 3, according to a countywide personnel update released by County Manager Robert Lawton June 24. No names were given at the time.
Two sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times Leader several days later that Dzoch herself initially reported the fire from her cellphone while standing outside the house, identifying her location as Mocanaqua.
While well known to those in the area, Mocanaqua is not an incorporated municipality, but rather a section of Conyngham Township. When the dispatcher asked for more information, the sources said, Dzoch said she was at Main Street, Conyngham Borough, rather than Conyngham Township.
County 911 protocol instructs dispatchers to summon crews to both municipalities if there is such uncertainty.
But according to the sources, the uncertainty should have been cleared up when a separate call reporting the fire came in from a neighboring land line. The cellphone call from Dzoch was apparently t0o brief to determine the location, but a land line call can be quickly pinpointed by 911 dispatchers.
There has been no explanation why Dzoch re-entered the home.