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One more from DC: Engine company takes stroke victim to hospital. Council member orders hearing on EMS problems. Chief Ellerbe to hold press briefing today.

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Mayor has confidence in Chief Ellerbe despite controversies & delay in getting help for injured police officer


Last nigth at 11:00 PM, WRC-TV/NBC 4 in Washington did another story about EMS problems in the Nation’s Capital. This one is about an engine company transporting a stroke victim to the hospital because no EMS transport units were available for a while yesterday evening. As we relayed to you yesterday, Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has been quiet about the latest incident involving his department. That apparently will change at 2:00 this afternoon according to a notification sent out from the department’s communications director a short time ago:

Kenneth B. Ellerbe, and other public officials will hold a press briefing in front of the Department’s headquarters, 1923 Vermont Avenue, NW, to address concerns that have evolved regarding EMS response times.

Shomari Stone & Mark Segraves, WRC-TV/NBC 4:

District firefighters were forced to take a man suffering from a stroke to a hospital in a fire truck Thursday evening because the closest ambulance was seven miles away.

The incident comes just two days after an injured police officer waited almost 20 minutes for an ambulance.

Now, a top city leader is calling for immediate action, reported News4’s Shomari Stone.

The latest case involved a man in his 80s at a home in the 600 block of Atlantic Avenue SE. His wife called 911, saying the man was suffering from a stroke, said deputy fire chief Demetrios Vlassopoulos.

A fire engine staffed with paramedics responded to the scene within four minutes, and an ambulance was dispatched at the same time, Vlassopoulos told News4.

The closest ambulance, however, was coming from seven miles away — too far away to respond quickly in rush hour, Vlassopoulos said. A paramedic on the scene assessed the patient and decided he needed to go to a hospital immediately, so emergency personnel transported him in the fire truck.

This is the third time that an ambulance has been too far away to respond to a medical emergency in Southeast Washington this year.

District Councilman Tommy Wells told Stone that he would call a hearing into why it’s taking so long for some ambulances to respond in the Southeast part of the city. “We do not expect that there are any delays” in ambulance service, he said.

Meanwhile, 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, identified as Sean Hickman, 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.

“He’s pretty badly injured,” she said. “He underwent 7-8 hours of surgery the first night and he has additional surgeries today.”

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, who has oversight of the fire department, called the delay “unacceptable” and launched his own inquiry.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • backstep lineman

    Can we please just ignore all this, all of us that work in DC know nothing will change no matter how many people die or how many news stories there are about it. The only thing that will change the administration and all the flaws is when we get a new mayor in the next election and the administration for the Fire Dept. changes hands. We will still run calls and show up to your door it will be well above the national standard but there is nothing we can do. From the sounds of it we are as bad a Detroit and all their problems.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Come on now, we’re not anywhere CLOSE to the problems Detroit has, my hat is off to all the city employees up there who show up for work everyday and DO their jobs. Here we have our very own special brand of poop show. You’re right, ain’t nuthin’ gonna change until mayor vinnie is out, and who knows, he may get re-elected! He certainly knows how to say the right things. Stay classy DC!

    • backstep lineman

      Your right we have our own version but in alot of ways we are similar. They have a deplorable apparatus fleet as do we. They are responding to calls above the national average as we do. They run out of ambulances as we do. They have an administration all the way up to the mayor that is unalbe to perform same as us. Many of our fire houses have heat out for a week at times like their’s. But your right are problems are different is some ways, we actually have fire gear to go in buildings and we are not being laid off (yet).

      • VanMan429

        Plus, you guys *probably* have toilet paper… (thinking back to Charlie LeDuff’s bit about DFD not having any, and having to buy it themselves)

  • Anonymous

    Seven miles away ? How long could that possibly have taken, is there more to this story ?

    • Pipeman27

      7 miles in city traffic can take a while

    • Older than Ol’ School

      According to Vlassopoulos ( easier to say than spell) , the EMS crew was responding from E-22’s area-Brightwood NW. Responding to Atlantic St SE in rush hour traffic would have taken a long time. Seven miles in DC is a road trip in other cities.

    • stuart

      Seven miles is an eternity in traffic.

  • Been There

    If LRB announces anything other than his resignation, it is just more lies and obfuscations.

  • loftyexpectations

    I feel that there are some lofty expectations in DC… 7 miles and 20 minutes away during rush hour is a problem? (yes that’s sarcasm) Maybe they should just drop helicopters all over the city? Traffic’s backed up anyway… Why not just block off the road and land a bir!. Trying living in rural areas with Volunteer EMS, it takes 5-10 minutes just to get to the station and en route.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    @ Anonymous,
    Really? Have you ever been to a large city before? It’s called congestion and we have a lot of it. If you count the politicians and their puppet appointees we have about quadruple the national average.

  • DCFD Fan

    You guys are so screwed if he can turn this into a plus for his staffing plan. If you can prove he lied to Quander about the spare units he’s done

  • Fire21

    I reckon this is going to come down to how much embarrassment the people of DC are willing to put up with. So far not much of this has hit national attention except for fire blogs like this. It used to be that no-one ever heard of Detroit’s mismanagement either…until lately. The time will eventually come for DC’s government, or lack thereof.

  • FRMDC515

    7 miles is a helluva long way in the district. Like the chief said, the Engine crew made the right call.

    And by the way, comparing Detroit to DC is laughable.

  • Anonymous

    Of course there is more to this story….. Are city firefighters and station leaders making decisions that make the department look bad, i.e. the adminstration/chief? You can blame the Chief of the Department but who is really to blame? Just a thought

    • Barney Miller

      you should be ashamed! These men and women bust their a$$es every day and get beat down every hour. No lunches, cold dinners 3 hours after everyone else. They are getting whipped litterally. Go go go go go than when paperwork has an error they are called in a disciplined. Falling asleep on the way home. You are either LRB or a sheep of his. The chief is to blame because h has created a culture of fear and intimidation, retaliation and owns up to nothing….even the million dollars in overtime at the shop….he hung DFC out to dry and showed him the door. and nothing gets fixed correctly. YOU ARE A LOSER blaming the slaves instead of the master. People can only take so much they are human and no one is mastering a plan to deep six Ken except Ken.

    • Pipeman27

      You’re an idiot quit trolling


    This should be good….look for the smirk in front of the cameras with the low pitched voice that everythings fine and that an Internal Investigation is underway that I have no influence over and we’ll get to the bottom of this….Oh and we’re working diligantly with labor on a new contract and btw….I’ve improved the uniform appearance and THAT’S WHY THE MAYOR HAS CONFINDENCE IN ME!!!!!!!!!!


    Oh…and since this clown has upteen million college courses taken and has taken this job….IT IS HIS RESPONSIBILITY when an ambulance cannot arrive at someones emergency….Its HIS job to make sure that measures are taken for the frequent fliers, drunks, homeless shelters etc., that use DC EMS as a means of free healthcare, ride across town, hot meal and a warm bed….The old everyone gets a ride is BS and with todays technology and a little bit of strict EMS Prevention, this abuse could stop…And the hosptials need to get involved too because we’re bringing the non emergency patients to their hospital and in turn overcrowd them on a consistent basis….So lets focus a little deeper than ambos were tied up,OOS etc….the problems for why the firetruck had to transport this citizen is more than just no EMS units were available….Heck…were sending Paramedic Engines from the 5th Battalion clear across the river to NE & SE just because the call comes out as an Advanced Life Support call….the system is beyond repair and the FEMS Moron is in left field with NO GLOVE!!!!!

  • Older than Ol’ School

    Isn’t it ironic that JEMS conference is being held this week in DC. Do you think Chief Ellerbe will be a guest speaker. He will talk about the benefits of changing the name of the department from DCFD to FEMS to DCFEMS. How’s that working out? He probably wants to be as far away from anything that has to do with EMS. I wonder if has his EMS National Registry up to date.

  • Ron Stuart

    CHRIST it looked like a nazi Hitler propaganda speech! They were all lined up with dark glasses and lowered brims seemingly in defiance…. and stood with their hands clentched in front of them… hopefully Dave will post it. Damn embarassing and the chief wouldnt talk!!

  • Suck It !

    Average wait time for an ambulance during the 90’s was 35 minutes, if you were lucky!Now it’s a big deal??? Where was the media in the 90’s when we were transporting shot and injured police officers in fire truck on a regular basis?

  • ukfbbuff

    Looks like Ellerbee has finally got backed in to a corner and his; “Same ‘ol , same ‘ol” may not work out this this.

    His bad leadership is the definition of “Insanity”.

    Keep trying to do the same things over and over expecting a different result, ends up with one he had the last 10 tries.

  • Mike DCFD

    It doesn’t help that there are no Trauma Hospitals in SE DC and Hospital 1 can fill up quick. All those ambulance’s are travailing a great distance on every call to get to a Hospital!! Then the (AVL)Auto Vehicle Locator picks them up and sends them further away because our dispatchers do not know the city!!! Then you have Ambulances that exchange a Medic from a Fire Engine and they have to transport the FF Medic back to their station most likely across the city from WHC to SE then try and get back to NW.

    The first thing to start fixing the problem is for “lrb” to resign !!!!!

    • DCTaxpayerDC

      Mike, don’t worry about returing the paramedic. The “paramedic ambulance” memo takes care of that. Not only do we not have ambulances available for the residents but they probably do not have their closest paramedic either. Thier paramedic is assigned to non-acute calls all over the city. Several times now the DFC-O has realized that there was NO (as in NONE) ALS coverage over the bridge. He ordered the “paramedic ambulances” to go OOS and return thier medic. Several high profile medical locals have had to wait long periods of time for a paramedic. Another stellar policy that is going to come back to bite the administration.

  • Pipeman27

    Welfare is killing the fire dept

  • wonkywombat


  • Ol Skool 86

    To me, looks like they said “hey chief shut up and let us talk, you’ve done enuff damage when cornered on topics” they all are clueless. They only thing they care about is jamming up,as many —— officers as they can and try like hell to change they shift to make us more miserable. THAT’S ALL, REALLY, THAT’S ALL. His supporters are slowing rolling out……


    @Ron Stuart…..i agree….the DFC speaking is a stand up guy from my experiences, but who knows what he was told to say…..He’s more intelligent tham Ellerbe so maybe he just told the truth….but watching the video its so obvious a sack coat inspection was done prior to going on air….And where did Miramontes earn the gold leafs on his NYPD cover….was it his uncommin valor shown at Don Pablos Restaraunt while shoving numerous burritos in his pie face….

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Ol Skool 86 I thought 3-3-3 was gonna solve EVERYTHING. Are you saying lrb is just playing a spite game? OMFG I thought everything was getting BETTER!

  • heehaw

    Hey Hookman are you someone important with DCFD?. I mean you are all over the place with blogs saying this and that.Are you an official like a chief or company line officer?. You blog as though you are the expert on the current ills of your department. Do you have the answers that can turn your department around,or have you made it your mission just to talk smack.I heard you were Ellerbe’s biggest parasite not long ago.Your comrades talk about you like dogcrap.I hear your really a none factor within your department, but got to admit your entertaining. “HeeHaw”