NEW ORLEANS -- Imagine your house catches fire and you call 911, but no one answers.
One Uptown man says it happened to him on July 23 and he wound up having to literally run to a nearby police station for help while his house was burning.
"I knew I was up a creek without a paddle," said Alex Brown.
Eyewitness News caught up with the homeowner last week as he watched firefighters douse the flames at his Uptown home.
"911 is like the, in my mind, it's like the universal help call thing and it just fell on its, it just didn't work and I had to run and get the police," said Brown.
When the New Orleans Fire Department finally got the call, it took firefighters about five minutes to arrive at the Laurel Street address. That's precious time lost that Brown says may have stopped flames from spreading to his house from his backyard shed.
His frustration with the 911 call center was mirrored by Scott Boudin, who helped his neighbor escape from the flames.
"The lady on the phone told me I actually needed to call the fire department. I told her I didn't have time for that, there was a fire. I need to go see if anybody needs help. She put me on hold and then transferred me to the fire department," said Boudin.
NOFD District Chief Terry Hardy said Brown and another neighbor were on hold for about 34 seconds before hanging up. Brown remembers making at least four calls. However, Hardy says only one call is on record and that 911 operators were helping other people.
"In this case, we had six call takers that received numerous calls at that one incident and the call takers were busy taking active calls," said Hardy.
While the house fire remains under investigation, emergency officials are conducting their own internal probe.
"Citizens stated that they called 911 and they were unsuccessful as far as getting in. We need to figure out what happened so we can rectify those problems," said Hardy.
In response to our story, Deputy Director Frith Malin with the Orleans Parish Communication District that oversees the call center says OPCD is aware of the situation and is working closely with NOFD.