In the middle of sentencing Jason Allen Rose to prison Monday, District Judge Jack Murphy pointed a finger at the fire department, raising questions about its response to one of the worst fires in Lawrence history.
"While I'm not saying this to lessen your responsibility, the trial itself caused one to wonder if the extent of the tragedy could have been lessened," Murphy said to Rose. "There was one issue regarding the delay in response to the fire by the fire department. That question was unanswered (in the trial)."
Murphy's words in the final moments of the court saga stunned Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Chief Mark Bradford, who said he was pleased with the department's response time - 4.41 minutes - to the blaze first reported at 1:16 a.m. Oct. 7, 2005.
"I think these are probably isolated comments, but I do not agree with them," Bradford said later Monday.
Bradford said 36 on-duty fire and medical responders were the first to respond to the call, six coming from Station No. 3, 3708 W. Sixth St., about five blocks away.
"There wasn't a delay," he said. "Our goal, using national criteria, is to respond to incidents like this within four minutes from the time of call 90 percent of the time."
For the month of May, the department's average response was 4.21 minutes for all calls, 4.4 minutes for fire incidents and 4.06 minutes for medical calls. Bradford said such times were consistent with other figures for the last year.
Murphy on Monday also raised concerns about fire alarms at the apartment building in the 500 block of Fireside Drive.
"I don't recall one person say, 'I heard a fire alarm or a smoke alarm,'" Murphy said.
But Bradford said the department did hear reports of people hearing smoke alarms.
The fire killed three people and injured 17.