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DC Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe shuts fire station after he finds case of beer in fridge. Alcohol tests on crew negative.

From WTOP's Mark Segraves:

An entire D.C. fire station in Northwest was taken out of service Thursday after the fire chief walked into the station house and discovered a case of beer in the refrigerator.

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe tells WTOP and ABC7 he immediately ordered Engine 9 out of service and had 15 firefighters and EMTs undergo alcohol testing at the department's clinic.

"I was a bit dismayed, shocked, surprised," Ellerbe says about his discovery. "Our older members should have known better."

Ellerbe says all of the personnel tested negative for alcohol and have been allowed to return to duty, but the incident remains under investigation and the station's command staff is facing disciplinary action.

"There will be some consequences for this." Ellerbe says. "We want to send a strong message we take public safety very seriously."

Things were back to normal at Engine 9 Friday morning. The station, located in the 1600 block of U Street NW, was out of service for less than two hours, according to Ellerbe.

"Coverage was not compromised," the chief says.

Ellerbe says it appears the beer was a gift from some grateful residents, but command staff should have known better than to accept it.

"We can't have this kind of behavior," he says, adding that some staff members are facing possible suspensions. "The command staff will be appropriately reprimanded."

Also from WTOP's Mark Segraves:

A lieutenant in the D.C. fire department is recovering from leg surgery after being injured by a fire truck.

The lieutenant was helping to guide a truck back into a fire station when his leg became pinned between the tire of the truck and an immovable object. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe says the incident appears to be a case of "operator error" and a lack of "paying attention."

The lieutenant's injuries are serious, but Ellerbe says the firefighter is expected to return to duty.

The incident is under investigation.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Don Rimgale

    On one hand, Ellerbe followed the Dave Statter rule of disclosure. The DCFD put the issue out there early and didn't try ot hide that there was beer in a fire station refridgerator.
    On the other hand, if you look at the Richter Scale of bad things that can happen in the fire department… a case of beer in a fridge doesn't seem like it would register a 1.0. Is it not possible that the department can make a scandle occur where none really exists?

  • doobis

    Maybe they were going to use it for cooking???  
    Sometimes I think political correctness and our culture's witch hunt mentality goes too far.  If none of them smelled of beer or were acting intoxicated and there were not empty cans laying about, it would have been easier to simply toss it in the trash rather than cause this spasm and have people get in trouble.  
    That's DC for you.

    • dave statter

      A reminder.

      I have had to kill a couple messages on this thread because those writing were adding information to the story that hasn’t been reported. Feel free to state your opinion about the story, Chief Ellerbe or even me. Just don’t play reporter.


  • Never Quit

    It's a bit sad that this is apparently bigger news than the firefighting lieutenant (also from DCFD) who was apparently badly injured in a backing accident.

    • dave statter

      I am about to add that. Also, from WTOP.

  • mark

    Maybe these guys were just trying to get over the stress of having to wear shirts all day that ID them as "FEMS".
    I am quite sure it would cause me to drink.

    • dave statter

      Now that’s funny.

  • Old School

    Over reaction to nothing. What's wrong with accepting a small token of appreciation if  they don't drink it on duty. 

    • Donna F Gibson

      Agree !!!

  • Legeros

    This sounds like a job for the Barley Evidence Emergency Response Squad…

  • Anonymous

    Dave:  You have to put out the whole story; there's no killing messages to "a story that has not been reported."  The guys put out a fire at a man's house.  He came by to thank them by giving them a case of been.  They said they couldn't take it, but the man said he would just leave it anyway.  Someone made the mistake of putting it in a refrigerator.  Nobody was drinking on duty.  The bigger story is the sad fact that somebody dropped the dime to the FC that there was beer in refrig.  There is no more brotherhood in this job.  Everyone is watching out for spys who are looking to get another guy in trouble not so much for safety or accountability, but for political agenda and self-righteousness.  Very sad Dept in this era.

    • dave statter

      Since you didn’t add any new people who weren’t mentioned I am letting it go, but it is on the border.

      For the record I am not looking for the comments section to provide news but a place to react to news and other things posted here.


  • dcfiremen

    Nice comments by the administrator on the LT's injury, what a prick. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about this guy. Maybe, instead of running around raiding refridgerators and acting on every shining stars tip, hoping to catch somebody doing or wearing something wrong, he should have been at the hospital doing his JOB supporting the injured firefighter and his family after suffering a serious injury. Don't think for a second he alerted the news to be transparent and get ahead of this he was merely trying to make himself look good. Why would he place all those units out of service and then place even more companys unavailable to transport these guys with the mass casulty unit when he simply could have had MPD bring a breathalyzer to the firehouse? Luckily there wasn't a fire or other emergency in the 4th battalion.
    Some citizens do become very offended when they bring a thank you gift to the firehouse and you have to tell them you can't accept it. What looks worse a case of beer sitting up against the door of the firehouse or tossing it in the fridge and taking it home after the shift? I don't know the right answer to that question but I guess you just have to explain to the citizen the rules and the current working conditions we are in and hope they understand

  • FireGears

    This situation is not "brain-surgery" but it is a TEST.!!
    If a "Grateful Citizen" leaves some beer, booze or money at the Firehouse.
    Thank Them
    place the item under lock-and-key, 
    enter the incident in the Station/Captains' Log 
    and immediately contact the Batt-Chief.
    You’ll pass the TEST.!!!!
    I’m truly sorry these Brothers did not “pass the test” as they will now
    have to wear the dunce cap.  

  • Anonymous

    The test is 9 Engine 9 Truck has, 11 assigned members at one time, how many ounces of beer is that per man? Divided that by the amount of sweat lost by each member while wearing a button down shirt? multiplied by the time spent on police patrol? Minus the the snitches, sorry, shunning stars, cause I’m sure they were not partaking? Total? Who cares,it’s more the entertainment that this “administrator” has created with the entire process. Did the knuckle head who backed over his Lt have to blow too? After all 28 hose isn’t that hard to back into…..

  • UsetobeDC

    This is all bullsh*t.  It's obvious Ellerbe has an alternate agenda here. Considering what I have read and heard so far from DC. 
    Why is he going to a firehouse and checking the refrigerator?? Somebody called him obviously(perhaps it was a set up all along) 
    And why is he calling the media about it.  If it was a full case of beer.  Just tell the brothers to put it in a car trunk and be done with it.  Making a story out of nothing will not serve the Department well.  Obviously he doesn't care about the wellfare of the Department.
    Being an ex DCFD guy I know Ellerbe was a jackoff and apparently is now an even bigger one.
    It's a shame this great Department continues to have piss poor leadership.  There are a ton of good guys there and they deserve much better.
    I am happy and relieved to have moved on to if not greener pastures then at least they have less manure, like this bs, in them.  I empathize with  the brothers in DC and hope they get a real Fire Chief soon!

  • UsetobeDC

    And I hope the media asks how closing an entire firehouse doesn't affect coverage in that area.  Obviously it does.  Unfortunately this reporter missed the opportunity to challenge Ellerbe on his bs. 
    And if companies were transferred into the firehouse(which is doubtful) then that would leave other areas without coverage.
    Scumbag move by a known scumbag!!  Hopefully he quits before he does anymore damage to a fine Department!!

    • mark

      Have to ask the same question as UsedtobeDC. Why is the media so ignorant that they don't pose the question: If you shut down an engine and a truck, how can coverage not be compromised? I am sure Dave would have if he still had his reporter card.
      For you DC guys, when's the last time a chief just happpened to come visit a station and then just happen to look in the fridge? The guy who dropped a dime should be completely ashamed of himself. Or if it was a setup, someone should be fired. Just glad it backfired, for the most part.
      Could've been worse, look at Macon-Bibb.

  • Uncle Paul

    All this just to get the "Promoting your Brother to Batt. Chief"off the top of the list..
    Now every tour these guys have to think that someone who they work right next to pimped them out.

  • Uncle Paul

    All this just to get the "Promoting your Brother to Batt. Chief"off the top of the list..
    Now every tour these guys have to think that someone who they work right next to pimped them out.
    "We can't have this kind of behavior," he says, adding that some staff members are There will be some consequences for this." Ellerbe says. "We want to send a strong message we take public safety very seriously."
    They did practice safety:
    The beer was removed from the apparatus floor (tripping hazard)
    It was placed outta reach of small children
    How much more safe can you get?

  • KODA

    No one mentioned it but it was not a case of beer.It was 3 beers in a fridg.WOW what a joke our chief is.

  • the knobster

    Maybe the public is putting themselves into the firefighters boots. Maybe they feel the same way  that the firefighters do, if they had to work for Ellerbe they would be drinking after work too.
    Compliments to all who tested negative!

  • Bee Keeper

    It was 'HOOKMAN" disguised as a citizen working in cahoots with the FEMS Admin.
    They should of known with the banana nose,glasses and trench coat

  • Anonymous

    Some "leaders" believe that the best way to make themselves look good is to make everyone they lead look like lesser people.  They are insecure, so they trump up issues, make them larger, and then act like they are "better" than those caught up in the mess.
    Should the bros have done something differently?  Sure.  Put the beer in your car and lock it up.  On the other hand, why would the chief even thing to drop by and look in the fridge?  I smell a rat.  Who knows?  Maybe the citizen called HQ and said he wanted to do something for the guys, and was sent there.  As an earlier poster stated, it may have been a "test".
    Maybe the citizen will hear about this and come forward with the rest of the story.

  • Anonymous

    What in the world is happening to our Nation's Capitol Fire and EMS Dept? Ellerbee a supposedly well Educated man has to stoop so low that inside station snitches tattletales if you will have sold their Brothers and Sisters out. Down the Toilet. One can only hope that Ellerbee will either do somethging wrong/stupid which will cause his demise or he'll just up and Retire/Resign. The conswequences he spoke about, keep a close watch He will probably Transfer a lot of good well Trained Professionals who obviously have experience and a positve  Trust and Respect Interaction with the community. That is without question above any level Ellerbee and his snitch has with anyone except someone who thinks and acts as they do. The Professional thing Ellerbee could have/should have done is go by the Station and speak  with the Officers quietly in the Office. As for the snitch and it it appears quite evident someone a Tattletale called him. I realyy donot like to use the Term Fire Chief with Ellerbee because it read so immature and juvenile by his actions. Ellerbee and your snitch you both make  me sick. Neither one of you have  nor demonstrate any real Professionalism which DC Fire and EMS is based upon with a Time Honored Reputation. Keep in your mind Ellerbe and snitch "What Goes Around Comes Around"
    "For All the True Professional Well Trained Firefighters of DC Fire and EMS Brothers and Sisters, I Salute you"   Keep up the Good Job you are doing.
    Thank You

  • Anonymous

    It was HOOKMAN in disguise working in cahoots with the FEMS Administrator to set the fellas up.
    The Banana nose sunglasses and Trench coat should of tipped them off.

  • KODA

    Hey Ellerbee, why don't you come to my house and check out my fridge.  I have an 18 pack of bud light limes and something else for you to……..

  • just sayin

    Just a few clarifications for one of the annonymous writers … yes, the driver of 28's wagon did have to be tested at the clinic, the apparatus was not being backed into a station, and there is no 28 hose … I don't know where you're from but it is obviously not the DCFD so please shut the, expletive deleted, up and continue to yard breath in whatever volly jurisdiction you pretend to be a fireman in

  • Anonymous

    With reference to just sayin says, ok so what if the comments about the unfortunate accident with Engine 28, the comments about don't say anything. It is an Honest mistake. The anonymous writer just assumed Engine 28 was at their normal Station. He probably doesnot
    know Engine 28 is running out of  Engine 31, and Truck 14 is running out of Engine 21. The actual Station for E28/T14 was closed due to un Healthy and and unsanitary habitat conditions. That Station is being scheduled for Rennovation. As far as just sayin says comments, seemed inappropritae to an Honest mistake.. These words of vile stereotype about Volunteers in another jurisdiction is wrong and out of line.
    Thank you

  • Wonderingwheremydeptwent

    Actually T 14 is at 31 and 28 is at 21.  Knowing the guy driving the wagon at the time of the incident, I am just it was just a mishap.  Accidents happen for crying out loud.  As far as the appointed person in charge of destroying our great department and his comments…..karma is a booger.  May he rot in hell very soon!!!!

  • Brokenhearted

    Sounds like smoke and mirrors to take the heat off of him promoting his brother to Battalion Chief, a story which you for some reason failed to touch on Dave?

    • dave statter


      I thought the story was an interesting one.

      But after watching it, I didn’t come away with the impression that there was any wrongdoing. Watch it and tell me where it is in that story.

      The story seemed to be about a dilemma over whether the sibling of a department head can be promoted. Does that person lose the right to be promoted because their brother is the chief?

      If there is a smoking gun in all of this or even someone saying Kelton Ellerbe doesn’t deserve to be promoted (on the record or as an unidentified source) it sure wasn’t in that story. In fact I didn’t think the story lived up to the graphic and title “Ethical Firestorm”.

      If anything, it should say “Ethical Dilemma”. In that story not one person is heard even complaining over how this issue was handled.

      I am going to stick to my original plan and use it in Monday’s Quick Takes.

      But thanks for pointing it out.


  • Ol’ Skool 86

    I have not ready any of the following post so forgive me if i repeat. But the snitch OIC that called the FC direct should be placed on charges for not doing his job. Wake up all you shining stars,their is a chain of command last time i checked. If you are a Lt./sgt. and cant handle that situation at the company level or battalion level you should be demoted.  I guess you didnt do well on assesment center senerios….Its a shame, anyone that knows the FC thinks they can go straight to him when they are scared to act or make a decision. Hey,when your in a fire you gonna call FC to ask for advice too? This is one is to be trusted anymore……..

  • East of I-57

    Good to see the "chief" of our nations capitols's fire department has nothing better to do then stir up non-existent trouble. Fire the "chief"…and show no mercy towards your "Brother"

  • Dingle

    You are doing a fine job.
    Could/Would you please post the news clip of the gentleman who delivered the beer to the firehouse.
    Saw it this morning on Ch.4 and News Ch.8
    As for the Promoting your brother issue:
    I believe that one of the problems is that there are many more Senior Capt's on the job that should not have been passed over for a sibling who has only been a Capt. for a short period of time.

    • dave statter

      And DIngle, that may or may not be an issue, but it sure wasn’t pointed out in the news story. Or did I miss something?

      Just so people are clear about my role these days. Since I left Channel 9 in June of 2010 I no longer work as a reporter. I will still post expcerpts and link to stories that are in the news. I will even comment on areas where I think (notice I use the word “think”) I have some expertise like media coverage, reputation management and cameras at emergency scenes. I do my best not to comment on fireground operations because I don’t believe I would have any credibility with firefighters in doing so, especially since it has been so long since I had anything to with firefighting (or as Fireboy would say, I never had that experience).

      People still send me lots of tips and juicy information (unsolicited). I love being in the know, but I generally don’t do anything with them except to acknowledge they have been received, thank the person, explain my role and wait to see if it makes the news.

      I still carry the same type news stories that I have in the past, generally using the same guidelines (do I think it will be interesting to firefighters and/or is there something to learn from this?). The only difference is that I am not going to be the person breaking the news. It will have to be something that is covered by another news organization.

      I read one version of the story from the person who supplied the beer. I will likely use it tomorrow.



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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for what you have done thusfar Dave and you're correct.  Those of us in the past have taken you for granted in getting our message out to the public by "breaking the news"  so to speak. But, you've got to admit it did do some good so to speak. You weren't that bad at 21 so don't kid yourself. Let Fireboy and others like him/her think otherwise.
    Since you can't or won't do anything with those "juicy" bits of information sent your way, can you pass on a name or two of someone that will? (lol)

    • dave statter

      You are too kind.

      While I am generally critical of the state of the news business, there are still a lot of good reporters out there in print, radio and TV.

      In my opinion a good reporter is one who is fair. When I say fair, that doesn’t mean they are just going to take your information and go with it. They are going to check it out, contact the other side and listen to what that person has to say.

      It’s also someone who isn’t going to ambush people for the sake of television news theatrics.

      As a reporter, the best sources were the ones who you could trust. That meant when there was a story that may not be favorable to the source’s side of things, the source was still someone you could rely on for information.

      For example, early in my TV career, there was a fire PIO in the region who would sometimes leak stuff to you. But the PIO’s reliability as a source of truthful information was so bad that if the sun was high in the sky and he told me it was daytime, I would want a second source.

      On the other hand, I had the good fortune, at times, of dealing with some police PIOs and police union reps who had such a good track record, that when we had stories from citizens about excessive force complaints, they could be trusted to help me sort out the good complaints from the bad ones. I have also had many fire department PIOs and fire department sources who had were just as trustworthy.

      Just look for someone whose work you like that you can trust and make sure you are honest with them.


  • Exasperated

    This is another example of how weak the Fire Administrator's political instincts are!  In my 25 + years with DCFD, alcohol in DC firehouses has been virtually nonexistent!  That era is long gone!  So, he is made aware of this situation.  By all means, deal with it!  But to do it in a way that shines a national spotlight on an isolated incident portrays this Department in an innacurate light.  


    Anonomussy………Why in the world you would say something as stupid and A$$ININE is that…. By your comment, probably tells alot about the person you are and how much of a J@#$ OFF you really are….Here I'll set the record for you…..I'm not even back to work yet, which makes your comment more screwed up than my retarded pet midget. However, when I do officially return, I will not be anyones snitch or secret spy……I would not lower myself to that level…..However, when you DO oneday grow a set, please and I mean please, come tell me personally all of your problems you have with me and maybe I can teach you a thing or to about who and what I am…..I doubt this will ever happen, so continue to hide behind your beer mussels and concrete wall that separates you and your keyboard from people like me…kisses…

  • Anonymous

    I read the comments from Ellerbee to the citizen who generously brought the Alcohol to the Fire Station. While his intentions were of the highest level of appreciation, it was wrong to accept the Beer and place it in the refrigerator. Ellerbee's response was somewhat of an excuse not a real reason for his knee jerk immature outburst of juvenile mentality.  Ellerbee acted with pure malice and ignorance based upon a station snitch/tattletale. He in essence sent a mesage to everyone who maynot like nor agree with station Officers decisions and/or work ethic. Yes the Officers were in violation of Policy. Ellerbee should have/could have expressed his pleasure and followed up with a written repremand. The issue would be closed.  Besides Ellerbee's rant and rage, the station snitch lost any credibility and Professional Trust and Respect of Station peers. Now anyone has the permission by Ellerbee to side step and call him with any opinions or feelings of not agreement. What does this do? If the snitch has lost any cohesiveness and TEAM Effort, in the Station how,who,when,why,whynot anyone can/will Respect him on the scene of an emergency. If the snitch cannot be Trusted in the Station, how can that individual be Trusted to be with and work with peers? This entire incident is nothing more than an effort to speak against what DC Fire and EMS is Predicated upon. This is without question a Shameful Disgrace exploited by and through a snitch and Ellerbee. DC Fire and EMS is, and has always been a well Respected Fire Suppression Department in our Nation, despite this juvenile mentality.Ellerbee and snitch climb out of your sand box, recess is over
    Thank You

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  • bubveb

    Chief Ellerbe needs to go back to Florida.