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Controversy all around, DC’s Mayor says he has confidence in Fire Chief Ellerbe. Deputy Mayor wants to know why 10 ambulances were out of service when cop needed help.

DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG

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It seems the DC Fire & EMS Department has been in the news almost constantly for the last three weeks and little of it has been good news. It has gotten to the point that today reporter WTTG-TV/ Fox5 reporter Paul Wagner confronted Mayor Vincent Gray about he leadership of Chief Kenneth Ellerbe:

Wagner: Do you still have confidence in Kenneth Ellerbe?

Mayor Gray: Yes.

Wagner: You do?

Mayor Gray: Yes

Wagner: Unequivocally?

Mayor Gray: I have confidence in our fire chief, is that your answer?

Wagner: Yes.

As for Chief Ellerbe, he has not been making any statements about the latest incident to put the spotlight on the department, the delayed transport for a seriously injured DC police officer. The chief is letting his boss Deputy Mayor Paul Quander talk with the press about this incident. Just two weeks ago Chief Ellerbe was more vocal, putting out three statements within 24 hours that addressed what the chief saw as inaccurate reporting on different stories about the department.

But Chief Ellerbe did talk with DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier about her officer being struck Tuesday night. Lanier, whose late dad was a chief officer with Maryland’s PGFD, talked with reporters today saying, “The last thing I want to think about it, you know is, a police officer who is injured that seriously to have to wait to get transported.”

In addition to the latest stories from Channels 4, 5 and 7 this evening that we’ve posted, here are links to other recent coverage: Why So Many Broken Ambulances, Alan Suderman, Washington City Paper; Debate over D.C. fire staffing renewed after officer’s long wait for ambulance, Peter Hermann, The Washington Post; D.C. Ambulance Unavailable to Respond to Injured D.C. Police Officer, Eric Purcell,;  D.C. investigating cop’s wait for ambulance, Alan Blinder, Washington Examiner; D.C. officials to investigate why ambulance was unavailable for injured cop, Andrea Noble, The Washington Times.

Mark Segraves, WRC-TV/NBC4:

The investigation into the delayed ambulance response for an injured D.C. police officer is focusing on 10 ambulance units that were out of service at the time of the call. The man in charge of the investigation told News4 he’s trying to find out why the units were unavailable and why they were all out of service so close to the end of their shifts.

The initial calls for a pedestrian down came about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night — just 30 minutes before the shift change.

“I want to make sure that in fact no one took themselves out of service without the proper authorization and especially when it came time to ending their shift early,” Deputy Mayor Paul Quander said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Thirty-nine ambulance units were on duty at the time of the accident, Quander said, and some of the 10 that were out of service had legitimate reasons for not being able to respond to the call.

“One of the things I need to find out from this internal review is what happened to 10 of the units that were not available at that critical time,” Quander said. “Some of them may have been on runs to hospitals. Some of them may have been being cleaned. There are others I need to focus on to see whether or not they took themselves out of service without authorization.”

The officer was eventually transported by a Prince George’s County ambulance with life-threatening injuries. He suffered multiple fractures to his left leg and has had two surgeries so far.

His recovery will be long, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

But it’s what happened after the collision that is now the subject of an ongoing investigation involving D.C. Fire and EMS.

The Sixth District officer, who has now been identified as Sean Hickman, broke his pelvis and one of his legs and was on the ground waiting for help for as long as eight minutes before paramedics on an engine arrived to render first aid.

The officer then waited at least 15 minutes more for an ambulance that had to come from Prince George’s County because there were no ambulances available in the District.

The long wait for an ambulance is now the subject of an investigation by the deputy mayor for public safety who says some of the ambulance crews on duty that night may have left the streets before the end of their shift.

“We had 10 medical units that were not available for service and I need to know why,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander. “Some of them were on runs, some were in for cleanup after you do a run, but I’m also looking to see if some went out of service inappropriately without authorization. They may have left their shift before it was over, but these are some of the things we have to sort out.”

Officer Hickman was riding a scooter when he was hit in the intersection of 46th and A Streets in Southeast D.C.

The long wait for medical help has infuriated the police union, which is now pointing fingers at the fire chief.

“Here in the nation’s capital that we would not have an ambulance available is inexcusable and who’s to blame? The Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is to blame,” said Fraternal Order of Police Chairman Kristopher Baumann. “This is his department and this is not the first time we have seen mismanagement with story after story of how he has been unable to make this a working department.”

Chief Ellerbe declined a request for an interview and said all questions would be answered by the deputy mayor.

“We had paramedics that arrived within eight minutes, which is well within the standard that we want,” said Deputy Mayor Quander. “What I also said is that the review will take a look at everything to see if we can improve, whether there was any impact to the officer’s care.”

On Thursday afternoon, FOX 5 asked D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray if he is concerned with the current state of emergency medical care in the city.

“With respect to the current situation, I’ve asked Paul Quander to take a look at it and he will have information and anything that will be broader than that, so let’s wait and see what he comes up with,” said Gray.

When asked if he still had confidence in the fire chief, the mayor replied “yes.” 

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Ron Stewart

    ELLERBE…..RESIGN…before it’s too late!


    Someone call Comedy Central immediately…..this has to be the biggest laugh of the century…..Count Gray sees no wrong with his homie Kenny….you cannot be serious can you….whatever weezy Mayor Zombie is blazing up…..i want some too….whatever it is…its got to take you out of reality and places you into this happy and perfect world…..Hey D******D…..your appointee, childhood pal, campaign contributor and SE brother Fo Life was found guilty of retaliation by an arbitrator and you say you have confidence in LRBEE….your dumber than the days long and hopefully the spring brings good luck to DC and rids itself of you and your trash…..

  • CareerLt

    The qualities of a true leader. Shut up and let your minions speak when faced with a crisis. Then blame the troops. I wonder how long it will be before the race card is pulled? “If this were a white chief, these questions about management wouldn’t be brought up.”

  • Com’ on man!

    One of the favorite tricks DCFD EMS units employ, nearing shift change, is to not place themselves back in service upon clearing a hospital or a dry run. This prevents the CAD and AVL from selecting them for an assignment, allowing them to return to quarters undetected, letting the crew to punch out without being held over and dodge assignments. Some time ago, a system was developed that would automatically place an ambulance in service, available for assignment, even if the crew failed to do so, once the ambulance would travel a specified distance away from the hospital or location of the dry run. This system prevented ambulance crews from dodging calls. The technology exists that prevents ambulances from becoming invisible to the system, especially at shift change. Why is it not being used?

    • Brokenhearted

      It is being used, all day, everyday.

    • Pipeman27

      It is do a little research before throwing stones at us.

    • MichiganFF

      You should really try working in that type of a system, it’s so much fun getting off late every day because you are the next available unit to take that back pain x 4 weeks, or abnormal labs that the ECF called in. Not to mention the CAD sending you all the way across town when a oncoming unit would be in service in 5 minutes. Lets not forget coming in at the start of shift and being rushed out because calls are waiting so you can’t even check out your ambulance properly, which by the way is still dirty and unwashed because the last crew got off late. Ah, good times.

  • RJ(in florida)

    the folks on the titanic had confidence in captain smith and look where that got them

  • Ol Skool 86

    He will put the blame on FF and a BFC,and skate free again. The deputy mayor doesn’t have a clue either…NO ONE EVER LEAVES BEFORE A SHIFT IS OVER. The single role ambos come back 5 min after 7 every shift and get an hour overtime( another scam) medics are held over mandatory…and today no ems units were avail again around 4-5 pm…this proves that no matter how bad the chief runs this dept into the ground purposely, the mayor has his back. When is the mayor or chief gonna have the FF back, when is the PIO or mayor gonna comment about all the good Dcfd does, never! This is a powder geg getting ready to explode ……..

  • Brokenhearted

    Just how many negative news stories can one man be involved in and still retain his job? When is this mayor going to do HIS job?

  • Commenter

    What’s telling is that Quander thinks that an 8 minute ALS first response is a good response.

    What about the 4 minute BLS response first response standard? That’s what saves lives, not 8 minutes for ALS or 12 minutes for ambulances. DC needs to reserve engines for critical calls, so they can provide a 4:00 response.

  • Retired Chief

    I’m wondering if this clown responds to major fires? If so, I hope he doesn’t take command or make any decisions. These never ending stories have sealed the fact of his inadequacies.

  • Minutiae

    Dave, two housekeeping notes. I think the quote attributions for the conversation between Paul Wagner and Vincent Gray are reversed starting with “Unequivocably.” There’s also what appears to be a typo in the quote from Chief Lanier (think for thing).

    • dave statter

      Should have been a question mark after “Unequivocally”. I fixed that. Though the language in the last two comments is a little strange that’s what they said. Listen to it. It’s in the story at the top. Thanks.

      I changed the think/thing thing. At least I think I did.

  • Scooter

    I guess the mayor is about the only one that has faith in the fire chief. Good luck DCFD and keep your heads up. Strike Da Box ! K

  • Anonymous

    Dave, I love to see the reports of the sinking ship we call the DCFD, HOWEVER, PLEASE stop putting big pictures of LRB up??????


  • Wilson Says

    Oh what a mess we have here! Going to be interesting watching the positioning and squiriming the chief and mayor. Stay tune more BS, I mean factual info to follow from the administration. Would be alot more entertaining if Phil Meddleson was grilling LRB like he did the Rube. Where are you Phil??? Mr. LRB, you can immediately correct this as well as so many other situations. Tender your RESIGNATION effective immediately! Sir, it is the only way you can weather this storm. Your time has come and is now gone,do the right thing…Take this time to WALK AWAY! DCFD.. Stay focused and be strong… Brighter days to come.

  • Anonymous

    I saw a news story on Channel 4 that said yesterday a Southeast man had to be taken to the hospital in a fire truck for a stroke because of no ambulances close enough…


    @Co’onMan….correct me if Im wrong..but doesn’t todays technology do the exact opposite of what you just said ?

    and kudos to Paul Quander….how brave of you to step in and speak up for a profession you haven’t a clue about. Your shifting the focus off of the incompetent FEMS leadership and onto the members is a courageous act that doesn’t go unnoticed…..Heck…you won’t even let 100K + per year FEMS PIO Lon “No B***S” Walls speak to the media…..oh yeah…he hasn’t a clue either about this profession….so we’ll let him collect District Taxpayer money free of charge so he can type on Twitter all day and play Candy Crush on his cell phone….
    I know I know….Count Gray told you from here on out…you will speak to the media and coverup or shift blame off the biggest zero to ever wear a firedepartment uniform….I highly doubt that you, Kenny Coward and Mayor Zombie could effectively manage a 7 Eleven… the saga continues…never take responsibility for anything, find everyway possible to act as if your of high moral character and of course….when someone farts…place them on charges and make sure they go to a trial board….oh..and after we retaliate against you…make sure to have Kenny Coward tell the media “We don’t operate in a payback environment”……

    Hey Kenny….don’t you think that if you were doing a stand up job you’d atleast read positive comments on here or anywhere else….no…every single comment made about you is negative and its really sad that your ego can’t see that….I know you fume over what people say and do about you and will fimd any and everyway possible to get back at that person….but you my man have created this….too bad your 3 week Harvard course and Im superior than everyone else attitude won’t allow you see this…..if what you do and how you treat people is because of your DEVOTE CHRISTIAN faith….then all I can say is….hope the devil has a special temperature when you arrive…’re not only a disgraceful leader, but a perskn as well….so make sure your uniform is pressed, you have your black socks on and of course..your sack coat, because that’s all you know….after all…this was your only accomplishment you could speak about when you told the empty seats at your State of Department MESS..

  • DC Firefighter

    Dave you’re probably getting bored posting all these stories about DC, but there is another on News 4 this morning about a Paramedic Engine Company that had to transport an elderly man suffering from a stroke in the Engine because there were no ambulances available. It’s like we’ve been saying all along. This situation happens everyday, LRB, the Deputy Mayor, and the Mayor have known about it for quite some time. Not days, not months, but years. They have all done nothing because LRB is using this as leverage against the members of the Department in his fight against the Union. He doesn’t care about the citizens, they are pawns to him in the game.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Of course vinnie has complete confidence in puppet ellerbe. He says what the mayor wants him to and he shuts up when the mayor tells him to. Good dog! Another in a long list of of DC mayors who have no clue about Fire and EMS operations trying to run the DCFD through a hand puppet chief. Anyone who thinks getting rid of the chief will change anything is nuts, I’m not so sure getting rid of the mayor will solve it either, running out of ambulances in the District is NOTHING NEW. I do find it odd that we haven’t heard from the DCFD medical director on this but I’m sure he’s been effectively muzzled also. This isn’t just a fire department problem it’s a HEALTH problem, so why have no EMS professionals from ANY of the city’s numerous hospitals said anything?! Oh that’s right, the hospitals don’t want to have ANYTHING to do with EMS transport or the massive abuse of DC’s 911 system. Tommy Wells, welcome to the city’s chairmanship of the judiciary! I don’t expect we’ll get any real answers or solutions out of you either, after all, you’re part of the lame-ass city council that rubber stamped the approval of mayor vinnie’s choice of puppet ellerbe as the “leader” for DCFD. None of you guys would be willing to stand up and admit you made a HUGE mistake. Mmmmmm DC politics at its BEST!

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    @ DC Firefighter,
    Yep running out of ambulances has been going on for YEARS, at least the 27+ I’ve been on, I’m just surprised it’s coming to a head now. You think it has SOMETHING to do with the city’s population growth? Nah. Don’t worry though, because the DCFD budget is ample we’ll continue to donate millions to other city agencies, and we won’t actively fill vacancies because 3-3-3 will solve EVERYTHING, in fact, we’ll be able to get RID of members! Citizens, workers, and visitors of the Capital City, RELAX! mayor vinnie and p quander have it all under control! Nothing to see here, move along!


    @Haveyouseenmybaseball……well said…..Tommy Wells will befriend the Union and hear our issues, but thats not acceptable…..Telling Ellerbe at a hearing his answers are “opaque” doesn’t cut it either….I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt as he’s new to chairing Public Safety/Judiciary and will do more than ask questions to boost his cred before the race for Mayor begins…..

    However, the District of Corruption never fails during each administration…..protect our own, act in a deceitfull and dishonest way and make sure you have a story to tell the media instead of actually being truthful and accepting blame and responsibility….As long as people like Ellerbe are hired because of whk they know and are accountable to nobody….the show will go on….Hope your proud of your main man and that you still have confidence in him….after all…in his 2+ years as FEMS DICKtator, he’s improved the uniform appearance….that in itself is remarkable achievment for someone making close to 200K a year…..


    @RetiredChief…..he’ll show up after the ones with common sense are dealing with the fireground and have complete control….As as a Deputy Fire Chief I’d seen him show up on a New Years Day blaze when most of the fire was knocked down and he was walking around like a chicken with his head cut off….so yeah, lets hope not…unless countless books filled with an extinguishing agent are made, then and only then will he put out a fire, let alone command one…As I’ve said before….he couldn’t command a sailboat on fire in the middle of the ocean….

  • gosharks

    If DCFEMS can’t handle daily/routine medical call volume, how would they handle an MCI, or, God forbid, a terrorist attack?

  • Anonymous

    The problem isnt the number of ambulances. It’s the abuse of the 911 system, the idea that sending an ambulance to every non emergency call is the answer to the ems problem in the city. The other problem is dispatchers that X-cross units across the city all day based on what a computer tells them instead of actually dispatching based on proximity, units clearing calls, and severity of the call. They’ll be 5 paramedic engines on a reported house fire which is deemed to be BS, and they’ll dispatch one from across the city instead of asking the Chief for permission to use one of the one’s off of the BOX that is way closer. Someone should be making a push to get firemen back in Communications, putting a check in the EMS system so they don’t have to transport everyone that calls for a stubbed toe, and make sure Ambulances cost more to ride than taxi cabs if they get there and determine you’re not an emergency patient, CASH ONLY, sorry you free insurance won’t cover this one fella.

  • Retired Chief

    Thanks for answering HOOKMAN. I was curious if this buffoon would come in and start changing tactics that competent chiefs had working. I’m sure in the mind of this egotistical a$$hole he is the only one who knows what is right.
    I can only imagine the stress the upper asst and deputy chiefs have dealing with this guy on a daily basis.

  • Shhh…

    I think the only way to get rid of this FEMS boss is to put citizen pressure on the mayor. If the residents of DC try to oust the mayor maybe and only maybe will he look for the Fall Guy and LRB will be his man.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Great, now you’re dragging in another city agency with ZERO accountability, the eminent OUC. There are no dispatchers over there, they’re just screen readers who regurgitate what the computer tells them to. Reminds me of Ron Burgundy who’ll read anything on the teleprompter. How many times a day EVERY day do you hear ambulances crossing paths because of incompetent “dispatchers”? Or how many times a day do you hear fire companies answering up on the air that they’re clear of a response and can take the run that just got dispatched to another company and ambulance and is only blocks away?! It’s ALL DAY LONG. I’m guessing today’s news conference in front of 1923 Vermont will be all about placing blame on the men and women who are actually trying to do the work out on the street, the greasy politicians and their hand puppet appointees will skate away as they always do and OUC will remain unscathed. Deflect, deflect, deflect. In the words of Phil Mendleson, “Oh it’s just the Firemen complaining again.”, so what do I know?

  • Been There

    It would be interesting to know what LRB has on Mayor Gray. It has to be something good. Even Gray could not willingly put up with such incompetence.

  • Pipeman27

    This place makes me sick

  • BK

    I’m not on the job, but know good folks that are. Same crap from Ret. PD – Blame the troops that do the work. Ambulances OOS and the Supervisors don’t account for them? Yes and dispatched criss crossingeach other. And this Cheif wants to CHANGE the shifts system and lessen the number of Ambulances on shift? To POCKET HIS BONUS for cutting expenses! Unreal!

  • watchdogdc

    We all know Vinny cant get rid of his boy. He probably wants to real bad but he knows how vendictive this guy is so he’s scared to let him go because he knows to much about the crooked stuff that the Mayors involved in. It should also be clear that the new order issued after this incident did not mention anything about units not going out of service for shift change. There should not be any units with qualified people on them allowed to go out of service for anything except decon, equipment, or mechanical problems other than that those units are here to serve the people and if that means paying a little overtime to do so than so be it thats the cost of doing buisness. The practice playing roulette with the lives of the Districts citizens has got to stop. This administration has put the department in a staffing crisis as it is and cost one man his life already. It must stop.