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Union says DC Fire is rotating closures to save money. Department spokesman says it's not true.

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“There are no rolling brownouts–or station shutdowns. Units are off the street  for various reasons like maintenance and vacation coverage. The public needs to  know the city has full and complete coverage.” Those are the words of Lon Walls, Director of Communications for the DC Fire & EMS Department as he told Fox 5/WTTG-TV the department was not using the rotating closures of fire companies to save money.

This conflicts with the press release issued Saturday by President Ed Smith, IAFF Local 36:

The DC Fire Fighters want to make the public aware that Engine 28 at 1763 Lanier Pl NW (serving the U St. Corridor, Adams Morgan, Kalorama, & Cleveland Park neighborhoods) and Truck 14 at 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW (serving the Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Glover Park, & Cathedral Heights neighborhoods) are closed today to “save on overtime”. Yesterday, June 22nd, 2012, it was Truck 8 quartered at 101 Atlantic St. SE (serving the Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and Bellevue neighborhoods).

This concept has been tried over the years with disastrous results. Whether it’s labelled “Firehouse Roulette” or “Brown Outs”, the end result is the same – people get hurt. It isn’t  a matter of “if” – it’s a matter of “when”…

The department has started this practice this week, on the heels of a major storm passing through the area last night, taxing the Fire Department’s resources.

I want to be clear we do not condone this practice and believe it to be unnecessarily, and highly dangerous.

The question has to be asked –  is someone’s life worth a few thousand dollars of overtime?

As the press release points out, The Nation’s Capital used rotating closures in the past as a way to save money. Going back to the 1970s this practice was dubbed “firehouse roulette” by Local 36.  Each attempt was halted after significant coverage in the local media about tragic fires that occurred near closed companies.  Below, are two stories I did in 1994 that will provide a little history.

More from Fox 5/WTTG-TV

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Comments - Add Yours

  • DCFDmember

    “Units are off the street for various reasons like maintenance and vacation coverage.”

    The units out of service listed by the union official in the video were not in service due to staffing/manpower. They couldn’t get the proper staffing/manpower due to the budgetary reasons as a result of the OT rules put in place by council about two years ago.

    They were not out of service because they were having maintenance done, and what in the world is ‘vacation coverage’?

  • DCFDmember

    A quote I saw yesterday regarding the closures in DC:

    “List of things that opened for business this morning in DC. 7-11, methadone clinics, Dunkin Donuts, The White House, Payless Shoe stores, Starbucks, E-28, T-14…oh wait not the last two, my bad. They were last on the list so they must not be as important.”

  • hydro engineer

    Lon Walls is a straight up liar. We do not put companies out of service for VACATION COVERAGE! Hell we can not even take a needed VACATION unless we just want half a day off. We have now been placed in the position to only request half a day off and report to work for the other half. I know for a fact that a Medic Unit was placed Out Of Service with the Paramedic at work just waiting an entire shift to get a partner, because the department could not find anyone to work overtime. This is because members will not receive payment for any hours worked over 36 hours in overtime.

  • No name

    Mere hours after this story aired an order was issued stating that firefighters were no longer allowed to request leave and would only be allowed time off during pre-determined leave periods assigned by the department, effectively making the already difficult task of getting time off with less than a years worth of notice impossible. Retaliation? Or just a coincidence? You be the judge.


    Vacation Coverage?????? You’re the department spokesperson and part of your answer to the closures is VACATION COVERAGE….So basically Lon, if a number of members are scheduled to be off, we don’t back fill those vacancies……and one would think that by saying vacation “COVERAGE”, which I’ve never heard of, people would be covering for those said to be on vacation….However, vacation coverage really means we close companies and put other units OOS for tree removal and to set up MOON BOUNCES!!!!!

    • Gil

      Dont forget for cooling stations at events at the mall.

  • Legeros

    You know, “Brown Out” sure sounds like some Made For TV cleaning product. There’s your million-dollar idea, Dave. Expand into infomercials. You’ll never look back.

  • Anonymous

    3-3-3…….Your problems are solved.

  • mark

    There’s a simple solution to “runaway” overtime budgets.

    Fill the vacant positions.

    Just seems so simple to a guy like me in fly-over country.

    Has DC ever had a fire chief? Not a political appointee?

  • Commenter

    How has this affected your NFPA 1710 fractile response times? Sounds like a FOIA request is in order.

  • Commenter

    How has this affected your NFPA 1710 Response Times? Sounds like a FOIA request is in order.

  • Jason

    At least there is some media coverage of the issue in DC. Our only newspaper advocates for less overtime and MORE closings to save money. We had a multiple fatality fire with three first alarm companies closed. Guess what happened? Not a damn thing. The city put a token 50k in an OT fund and now we only close two per tour. Big Deal. Our brownouts have been ongoing policy since 1992. I am of the opinion that you could die inside a closed firehouse in my city and it wouldn’t even be noticed because as the local newspaper says, “how could you ever be 100% certain it would have made a difference?”

    The only bit of advice I can offer is to never stop fighting this, because once brownouts become established policy you are forever screwed.

  • David Pfeil Sr.

    Damn, I’m surprised the Chief and Mayor didn’t reduce manning to 3 man engines, 3 man trucks, and 3 man squads…That will keep all the station open…..You’ll have some GREAT FIRE footage for the news, but the Mayor doesn’t give a rats ass anyway….

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Man they just don’t make fire service reporters like they used to!

  • pipeman

    Last I heard the city was 200-600 mil in the black so there is more to this than just cutting overtime. The city can definitely afford it. The fireman are just whipping boys yet again.

  • scott

    The biggest thing is that most cities have “brownouts” because of a lack of money. In this case, DC doesn’t have a lack of money…they just don’t want to come up off the money to pay anyone to work more than 36 hours in a pay cycle (2 pay periods). The money exits…there’s plenty of it. Keeping it at 36 hours prevents anyone from going into time and a half compensation, which is another thing the DCFD administration has been neglecting. We are paid straight time for any overtime up to 44 hours (I think) a pay cycle. This is being fought in the court system and the local is winning all the appeals from what I hear.

  • ?

    An additional media note : in addition to E28 and TK 14, 2 Medic Units were placed out due to staffing; not downgraded, out-of-service. What does the EMS Union think about that? We regularly have 6 Medic Units downgraded daily and staffed with FF Emt’s, we don’t regularly have Medic Units out-of-service .

    • DCFDmember

      The EMS union president is being buddy-buddy with LRB, so he won’t say anything bad about him. The EMS union members keep electing him, so they get the poor representation that they ask for.

  • mark

    Forgot one very pressing question:

    Who’s the skinny guy with hair in that second compilation of videos?

    • dave statter

      Not sure. Don’t recognize him. Looks like some schmuck with a TV job.

      • Retired 201

        I think it’s a former fire service reporter mentioned elsewhere.

  • Former Chief

    So the situation in DC continues to be bad. As another poster noted, at least some of the media is covering the issues and keeping the heat on. The most important question is, who is that very svelte guy claiming to Dave Statter? Not like I’m not a few waist sizes larger and more follicularly (is that a word?) challenged than I was in ’94. I compared a picture of me from ’94 to my image in the mirror. I burned the picture. Carry on Dave, nice job as usual.

  • Bucky

    Why don’t they change the name of Lon Wall’s job to official FEMS Administrator Bitch. He is a liar who only talks when his #) year Friend tells him too, then he comes up with vacation coverage!!! I have been around 23 years and have never seen or heard of a company being closed for anything but a cost saving measure or the city was to broke to fix a piece of apparatus. The Fems administrator and his puppet are trying a little trickery on the public!!!!!!

  • Bullets

    Seems like what DC needs to do is close some companies and replace them with EMS units. Keep the guys working, but put them where they are needed, which seems like the engines do more EMS runs then fire runs. Instead of sending an non-transport capable unit, send one that can treat and transport

    • Brian McAllister

      spoken like a true idiot

      • Scott Peterson

        An anonymous idiot, Brian.

        • Bullets

          An idiot who can look at run numbers and see what these units are doing. Tell me why i am an idiot

          • DCTaxpayerDC

            Do you live in this city? Do you like paying taxes for fire coverage that isn’t there? Well I don’t and I pay taxes in the city. So show us your DC tax bill or keep your opinion to yourself.

          • Scott Peterson

            It’s long and drawn out, but in short…ambulances get held up because they HAVE to take people to the hospital. The hospitals are concentrated. Firetrucks don’t normally transport people so they are closer to emergencies. If you removed the firetrucks and placed ambulances, the ambulances would still be coming from the areas of the hospital. You fail to look at the bigger picture. That…is why you are an anonymous idiot. Believe some of those in the trenches…we’re there and we see.

          • Doing It.

            Also Peterson does love EMS so don’t think he is bashing. He is a proud card carrying NREMT-P and he has a “I save lives, What do you do” star of life bumper sticker.

      • Commenter

        If DC had 30 fire units and 50 EMS units, instead of the reverse, the city might care when one of the fire units was OOS, or wasted on a low priority medical call.

  • RJ(in floriida)

    Is LRB included in the closings?

  • Brian McAllister

    yeah I notice most people who talk smack on here do it behind fake names…..

  • Ol Sokol 86

    What facts did Lon have to make that statement “vac coverage” did he call all those off and ask we’re they on vacation? let’s be real,it was a complete meltdown of dcfd operations.People should be held accountable. Dcfd aide should be kicked out.AFCO should be demoted! There was a willing body ready to work overtime at 1of the OOS companies and instead operations chose to close it. FACT! The FC wants to jam people for poor desicions, then let the heads roll. I have never witnessed in all my yrs such confusion and incompetence on this day. Some rosters changed more than 10 times.This will cont to happen because of the counsels OT law. This is what happens when u transfer aides and others just for spite that know how to run the dept. When will mgmt stop lying to the press? I want those responsible punished for their decision making. A crying shame, all the newly promoted chiefs and aides don’t know what the are doing, fellas….sit back and watch the show!

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  • Inside looking in

    People dodgeing medic unit and ambulance details or paying overtime. Which is the real truth behind units being OOS?

  • Just Sayin

    A couple of quotes from 2 long retired guys … sometimes you have to laugh just to keep from crying, and you know, if it weren’t for the fact that we deal with peoples lives and property every day this stuff would actually be funny. Both of these were from a former chief’s rain of terror that we all thought was the worst ever about 30 years ago … that guy was a piker compared to this ass clown

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  • Old head

    I want to know how many other jurisdictions across the country are closing fire companies when their budget is in the black. Just another display of MONUMENTAL INCOMPETENCE complete with lying in a sorry attempt to cover it up. Ron White said it best. You can’t fix stupid.

  • 100% union

    Backfill with volunteers

    • Doing It.

      Jesus, I would personally build the ticks a substation at Florida and North Capital if i thought they would show up.

  • what the heck

    Im a long time resident of Washingon,D.C. and have several family members on the department. It seems to me that anything this chief does it’s met with criticism.Now the laws of average dictates that no one does everything wrong all the time.Now I dont have a cristal ball but it appears to me that most or if not all the people on this site being critical are white.Like I said I do have family on the job and I am told what the real problem is. I’m told this chief isnt like the others,he has tackled some wrongs of the recent past.You complain, complain, complain, I know its human nature but come on youe suppose to be men.I think you all would better serve yourselves by picking your battles wisely.I am also told that the union is a joke. Let me remind you guys that an endorsement from your union means nothing.How many of you on hear live here,so that makes how many political votes. Your union on tv talking and defending about wearing “T” shirts that was absurd when there are disability issues that need to be address.Looks like to me your pissing the fire chief off with all this hogwash on here. Man up and start acting like men because Ive seen young kids here from the city who have more masculine juice then waht I see here.

    • And it starts…

      And there is the race card….again. As for what’s wrong with this chief, there are plenty of things to talk about. Until you actually experience it for yourself, you just don’t know.

    • Doing It.

      From Wikipedia- “The law of averages is a lay term used to express a belief that outcomes of a random event will “even out” within a small sample.

      As invoked in everyday life, the “law” usually reflects bad statistics or wishful thinking rather than any mathematical principle.”

      Where is Average and what laws did they pass? Your logic is flawed, your rhetoric is ridiculous, and somehow in a few not-so-short run on sentences you managed to compare children’s masculinity to the business of running a fire department. Stick to the race card, it is the only on in the deck.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    What does being a D.C. resident have anything to do with anything?
    Unless you overlook the wide spread corruption of the city politicians, the steeling of money from children, the pay to play schemes, the cronyism, which is the only way LRB has a job, the non taxpaying mayor for life, and on and on. Wake up this fire chief came here with an agenda and he could give two shits less about the members. Except a select few shinning stars and one brother who was given a gravy train position to babysit a Chief who most likely can’t figure out what the hell FEMS stands for.
    O yea he was also one of grays boys. Working on his campaign as he so arrogantly bragged at the Training academy.
    Don’t worry black or white this nightmare will all be over soon, and you “what the heck says”, can go back to hiding in a slow ass company, and continue to be the load that you probally always have been. But its ok cause you are a D.C. resident.
    D.C. one city, jobs for friends, family, and people who buy a spot in the current game.

    • what the heck

      First of all im not a firefighter numbnuts never said I was. I stated I have family members who are on the job.I know about firefighters like you. Your the one who commutes here can care less about the people you serve all the while bashing the department.All you care about is watching someone go through the misfortune of their home burning down.Oh yeah your brothers talk about firefighters like you. As far as a load, not sure what that mean ill have to ask my cousin for the translation.Either way i’m sure your a piece of work within itself.As far as race I see you made it a race issue when you turned your backs on your chief at the state of the department address.Yes i’m a D.C. resident and proud of it. I cant’t stand people who dont live here and point out all the flaws.We dont need your opinion on our affairs especially when you dont give 2cents about the population.Unless you have solutions to fix the problem,which I doubt,save them for the sticks where you came from.

  • FF-inDC

    I am going to cry foul against my fellow fire fighters. The Chief didn’t put one company out of service. We abuse sick leave. Over 50 people called in sick on that Saturday and the same today. If half of those came to work NOTHING would have been OOS. It is in TeleStaff for any one to see unless you are below the rank of Sergeant. The reason why the 2nd VP did the interview is because our Union President called in sick too. Seems to me we are to blame. We have failed the people we are paid to serve. So what you didn’t Annual Leave. If you are half as dedicated as you boast you would be at work. The 36 hour law is a result of Rubin not addressing the overtime issues and was in place before the new chief assumed duty.

  • UsetobeDC

    If you work sick or injured you are endangering the lives of your brothers and those you are sworn to protect.

    Firefighting is not an office job you can struggle through. It is incumbent upon the members to stay in good health and fitness. And to not work hurt or sick.

    No other explanation needs to be made for members being off sick on ANY day.

    • FF-inDC

      You and I both know that is not the case so don’t try to blow smoke up my butt. Members are walking around saying if I can’t get leave I will call in sick. You know it, I know it, the Union knows it, and the Fire Chief knows it. We have a computer doing staffing not our buddies as in the past. When my leave was denied I got a notification. If I go sick the same day I was denied leave it is abuse or one hell of a coincident. You would have been better to respond that we have allergic reactions to weekends.

      • And it starts…

        And when there are 163 vacancies and counting, the workload is going to be increased even more on those that are still there. So, with the fact that guys are being kept from enjoying their time at work, this takes a psychological toll on them and if they are “sick,” then I sure don’t blame them. It’s hard to go to work and keep sanity when there is an administrator that is constantly discouraging his subordinates. Call it what you want, but the truth is that the workload is increasing and our administrator is doing nothing to improve it.

  • Bacon Racer

    If the budgets of the Washington District of Columbia Fire Brigades goes up by X % how many more lifes and buildings will be saved? Does anyone have any hard numbers?

  • UsetobeDC

    Don’t tell me what I know. And don’t tell me I’m blowing smoke.

    Here is what I know. I see you post some damning accusations on a public website. That is an outrageous betrayal in and of itself.

    Second I have seen, and was a part of, working hurt, sick and injured. It does nobody any good and should be done a lot less often.

    I also know the DCFD four platoon schedule is horrible. There are better FOUR platoon schedules out there that don’t make a member work 3 out of 4 weekends. And while that may have been the “Deal when they signed up” what wasn’t the deal was that they would not be allowed to take vacation leave. The rest of the world runs on a Monday through Friday schedule and thus the families of the members do too. There is no reason to not allow leave on weekends in the summer. There are plenty of members willing to work the overtime.

    I am glad there is ONE “FF-inDC” that always does the right thing and is better than everyone else on the job. Hopefully you will become the next Chief of Department so you can clean up the current a**hole Chief’s mess.

    • FF-inDC

      Once again you blow smoke. No department in this country would waste taxpayers money on overtime so firefighters can be home on the weekends. You don’t want to work weekends then quit. The Fire Chief has order members who should be going home held for 12 hours per our Union contract to keep companies in service. I am shocked that you would condone abuse. I am not just saying it everyone knows it. If someone gets held because some *Bleep* calls in sick and the held fire fighter’s weekend plans get ruined it sounds like you are okay with that.

    • FF-inDC

      As for vacation time we get anywhere from 3-5 weeks vacation based on your time on the job. Everybody can’t be off at the same time. It is time we grow up and realize we do not work at Burger King. We are essential employees and should act like it.

  • Sheeple

    You can send a fire truck to a EMS call but you can’t send a ambulance to a fire!

  • Inside looking in

    It is 2012 and people are still using the “everybody is going to die now” “scare tactic”. You insult the publics intelligence by going that route. The funny thing is who are you trying to scare? The people who live in the neighborhoods some of you work in really know who is scared. They know most of you wouldn’t dare come in the neighborhoods you work in if you weren’t riding that red truck.

  • UsetobeDC

    You speak with such authority that you must truly know.

    Only problem is I know other departments that allow their members to take off. Even on weekends.

    It is understood that most people will want to take off during the summer and therefor accommodations should be made.

    Summer is always a time for increased leave and increased overtime. Something an administration with a lick of sense would plan for.

    As to the statement “If you don’t… then quit…” I will simply say only an idiot would suggest such a thing. Guys take this job as a career and won’t quit because of silly bullsh*t like not allowing leave or changing the shifts.

    And lastly I don’t think “everybody knows” the information you have posted on this public site. But let your conscience guide you as it is apparent there is nobody as good as you in the DCFD.

  • Welcome to our world

    (Inside looking in and FFin DC) you both speak the truth.First of all alot of those who post here can give a rats ass about those they serve.I’m tired of these fake ass wannabees claiming to be sooo dedicated to the job (not the community)and put on a display like this.We are not fooled by your fake dedication.You need to have the tat’s you were so proudly removed or just plain cover them up.If you were so dedicated and love this job you would show up regardless unless you were incapacitated.We have been spoiled here as it pertains to leave.Each member has between 3-5 leave periods depending on your tenure.We just got use to aides working their majic and allowing us to have leave outside of our leave periods.What we need to do is when the ungrateful fu%ks decide to have a sickout.The real dedicated members need to step up and come to work get the OT, and than go home to be with your family.No one agrees with you but your buddies on here.As one put it if you dont like where you work than QUIT its not an idiotic statement its elementary.Oh how convienent youve been pimping the press to embarass the department the last 2yrs.Dont worry we wont forget payback is a mutha,revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • Welcome to our world

    FF in DC and Inside Looking in keep posting brothers the peeps who don’t work here need to know that it’s not one sided.You are the real soldiers keep up the good work and keep getting promoted.That’s how you effect change.