Woman who made initial call for help at Belleza condo fire reacts to internal investigation

Article and Video Courtesy of WJAX 47 Jacksonville

By Amanda Warford

Published August 14, 2015



PONTE VEDRA -- Three weeks after a fire destroyed a building at the Belleza Condominium complex in Ponte Vedra, St. Johns County Fire Rescue has released the results of an internal investigation into the response of fire personnel that morning.

Firefighters spent two hours extinguishing flames that engulfed the building. Twenty families lost nearly everything.


“I'm just dumbfounded,” said Laura Griffin, who lives in the building next door. From the very beginning, Griffin never understood why so much of the building was destroyed.

Griffin, who called 911 multiple times that morning, voiced her concerns in the hours following the fire, sparking an internal investigation that has now led to the dismissal of 911 dispatcher Lona Williams and the retirement of engineer Alton Robey.

The report said Griffin first called 911 at 4:05 a.m.

“I’m smelling smoke coming from somewhere. It could be across the way. It could be from this building. I can't tell,” Griffin told Williams.
The report said Williams gave the call to Engine 10, led by Robey, who was stationed with his crew 2 1/2 miles away. When the fire truck arrived, Robey never ordered that it be pulled into the complex. Instead, the crew rolled down the windows and drove by along Ponte Vedra Lakes Boulevard. The entire investigation took about 26 seconds.

“I knew that if they came anywhere near the back of the building, I would've heard them,” Griffin said when Action News spoke to her again Thursday following the release of the report.

The report went on to state Griffin called 911 again at 4:22 a.m. and again spoke to Williams.

“They did come out and they weren't able to find anything,” Williams is heard telling Griffin.

“Well, they didn't come back where my unit is. I could've let them smell it,” responded Griffin.


The report said Williams never called Engine 10 again, following the second call.

“I can't comprehend why she didn't do that,” Griffin told Action News.

Then at 4:52 a.m., the report says Griffin called a third time, and let Williams hear the audible fire alarm in the distance, to which Williams responded, “OK, we’ll get them out there.”

Griffin said she now knows coming forward was the right thing to do and hopes the investigation will lead to change for the entire county.

“I couldn't believe that they would just dismiss it," she said. "Maybe this will be to the benefit of the entire county. That they will not be giving the benefit of the doubt to the person who's calling until you can prove otherwise. I think that's the right attitude.”