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Latest from DC: Like Detroit, ladder trucks in Nation’s Capital not inspected. Chief says lack of reserves last year is the reason.

DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG

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Detroit’s ladder problem

WTTG-TV/ Fox 5 reporter Paul Wagner still can’t get DC Fire & EMS Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander or anyone from Mayor Vince Gray’s office to sit down for a chat about all of the recent problems facing the department. But Wagner’s report last night prompted yet another statement from the chief acknowledging another serious problem uncovered by the reporter and IAFF Local 36.

According to Wagner’s story and Chief Ellerbe’s press release, DC’s aerial ladders are in need of inspection. A union official says records indicate the last time annual inspections were done was in 2009. Chief Ellerbe’s statement only confirms they weren’t done last year. The reason, according to Ellerbe: “Ladder trucks were not tested last year due to a lack of reserve trucks.”

Even though this latest press release from the chief now confirms the lack of reserve trucks was an issue last year, the chief also confirmed this week that the department inaccurately reported to Councilmember Tommy Wells last month that there were 13 reserve ladder trucks in the fleet. That screw-up is being blamed on Deputy Chief Wayne Branch. Branch put in his retirement papers last month when the issue of excessive overtime at the apparatus shop became an issue at the same hearing.

So, how many reserves are there to back up the 16 front line ladder truck’s protecting the Nation’s Capital? That still isn’t clear. There is no press statement yet from Chief Ellerbe on that topic, but the union told Wagner last night that so far they can only account for one reserve. This much is known, one of the 16 trucks in DC was shut down this week because there were no reserves available.

Now the question is what will the DC Fire & EMS Department do about untested aerial ladders? In Detroit earlier this year, they faced a very similar problem. When it was discovered that the Detroit Fire Department had not kept up with NFPA inspection standards firefighters were ordered to stay off aerial ladders unless there was an imminent life safety issue. No indication yet that the DC Fire & EMS Department will go that route.

As you will see in the story above from Wagner (and can read here), DC’s inspector general was already looking at fleet issues last year but has not issued a report. Wagner also pointed out more potential security problems with all of the apparatus parked on the street near the shop (a practice that goes back decades).

Here’s Chief Ellerbe’s complete statement released to WTTG-TV/Fox 5 on Friday evening:


F&EMS ladder trucks are currently beingtested, with the most recent test taking place this week, on Monday, March 11,2013.  Ladder trucks were not tested last year due to a lack of reservetrucks.

With regard to the procurement issue, the processwas complicated by the fact that a winning bidder refused to grant theDepartment a five-year warranty.  When the bidding process was reopened,the vendor filed a protest, further delaying the order.  The new processis almost now complete and we expect a new vendor will soon be awarded thecontract. New ladder trucks are being built to the specifications developed incollaboration with members of the firefighters’ union.

As we previously have indicated, since 2011, theDepartment has made purchases of apparatus.  These deliveries include:

6 Engines

4 Trucks

2 Rescue Squads

32 Ambulances

Also, on order for this fiscal year (2013) are:

6 Engines

2 Trucks

13 Ambulances

1 Boat

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Tom

    If DC is not taking Ladder Trucks out of service for ladder testing…are they taking them out if service for routine preventative maintenance? I recall a significant ladder truck failure within the past 6 months…I believe due to a lack of lubrication of the rails and pulleys. A lack of reserve apparatus is no excuse for failure to test and maintain.

    • Anonymous

      What is routine preventative maintenance???? Haven’t seen that in years!!!!!

      • Gil

        The shop thinks an oil change will fix every thing. And you have to beg for those.


      Routine preventative maintenance, WTF is that? In DC since LRB has arrived We Just run shit until it brakes then you get one of the US Government paid for reserve pieces and run that until it brakes, and hopefully the first on is fixed by then or your shit out of luck and get detailed all over the city!!!!!

      • Doing it.


  • Barney Miller

    Hmmmm. I wonder if they are reporting to the Federal Government that their Ready Reserves, that they get funded to maintain, are ALL in place and in proper working order..???? That would be bad to charge the Federeal Government and NOT have the apparatus READY like you get paid to do. That might be considered Fraud. Well at least our uniforms are “tight” our socks are the right color and “errry body” knows that by not listening to incompetence, will have them on charges, demoted or retired.

    This could have been local boy does good. But “Local Boy” is autocratic, demoralizes and degrades his subordinates in such a fashion that they only do what they are told, not an iota more. If you think outside the box for “the good of the department” you are seen as challenging to his authority and busted down or relocated.

    Like at this very moment there are officer vacancies that he will not fill because he hears grumbilings from the union, so he will negatively affect efficiency by not promoting a dozen or more. This is not new or tactical to benifit the citizens. He has been this arrogant, alluf and vindictive since the start. As proven by the arbitraiors ruling.

    I really wonder what Quander is thinking too. This is unraveling above and below him. He used to be referred to as having integrity. I wonder if he will maintain his rating after Ken and Vinnie have him branded. But I am finding people in charge litterally have been branded. Wonder what that’s about….

  • Former Chief

    I’m glad to see the press is keeping up the pressure on these issues. I’m sure the elected officials do not appreciate all of this scrutiny. This can only help to expedite Ellerbe’s departure. Perhaps it would be a good time to remind the press of how much money was spent on changing decals, logos, and lettering on apparatus unnecessarily.

  • Former Chief

    And on another note. How difficult can it be to find out how many reserve ladder trucks, or any type of truck there are. They know, they’re just hiding the numbers until they can get a few more available. As far as the security issue is concerned, I think the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security should be made aware of unsecured emergency vehicles in the nation’s capitol.

    • Fire21

      I remember a news story in the late 1960s where NASA had lost a rocket engine. They had it on the books, and knew it existed, but just couldn’t find it. They finally did, in a distant warehouse. Perhaps LRB ought to check all of DC’s warehouses to see if they hold any reserve ladder trucks.

      I guess when incompetence exists at lower levels (Fire Chief), and incompetence exists at upper levels (Mayor), then incompetence just continues……

    • Anonymous

      “I think the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security should be made aware of unsecured emergency vehicles in the nation’s capitol”.

      It’s been like this forever… news there!!

  • Andy Nonomous

    More lies from lrb (liar b) in the past a truck company would be sent to the academy where the ladder testing was done. While the ladder was being tested, the crew from that company would do some sort of training. Be it CME lecture, practical evolutions, classroom instruction etc. however when lrb became the chief he gutted the training staff at the academy allegedly to save money by returning the detailed instructors (and there were some good ones) back to their respective companies to cut down on the overtime in the operations division.

    Councilman Wells, I hope you are sincere in trying to get to the bottom of this but from my experience during my career with DCFD the elected officials would tend to “blow smoke up….’ to try to take rectify the situation which usually resulted in a witch hunt from management to “make them pay” for embarrassing the chief.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Ooooooo the DC Inspector General is conducting an investigation. Now there’s a tiger with no teeth. deputy p, when are you gonna get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable? Maybe your best bet is to stick with “chief” e’s strategery and just continue to demote the underlings. Guys, your silence is deafening. My question is, what exactly in the hell was the shop doing while they were racking up all that O.T.? Oh, that’s right, we had to replace those pesky door seals and strip DCFD off all the equipment. At least everyone has their pressed uniform shirt on and we look good! Ah, the priorities of being the “chief”. That and the little social agenda of 3-3-3 and all of our problems will be solved, who cares about service to the community? The sad part about this whole sorry debacle, aka the mayor vinnie “administration”, is NO ONE CARES. The only people complaining are the guys who beat their brains out every day on the streets with their “cushy” jobs. I eagerly await the arrival of the next snake oil salesman to “lead” our department. Should be about two years. Or 6 if mayor vinnie gets re-elected!

  • Commenter

    So, you couldn’t test the ladders last year because of a lack of reserves, but you didn’t find out you lacked reserves until last week?

  • Jake

    Yet another chapter in the continuing saga of government incompetence

  • Anonymous

    Yet another reason why I am glad I turned down that offer!


    So the King admits there was a lack of reserve ladder trucks a year ago, but doesn’t know know the current status of the reserve ladder trucks to this day ??????…

    The procurement process to contract out work such as this boiled down to one company and because they wouldn’t give a 5 year warranty, is the answer for not testing the ladders ????
    Seeing that the procurement process would include 3 companies in the bidding process, why not give the work to one of the others just for the sole purpose of safety, then work on an extended contract down the road…..

    I’m sure Chief Fraud when the oil was changed and tires rotated on his Tahoe….

    I find it amazing how many members are being brought up on trumped up charges for the pettiest of things and hung out to dry or better yet, reccomended to a department trial board for thier termination, but this a**wipe can be found guilty of retaliation, lies under oath, jeopardizes the safety of the department and hasn’t a clue about the day to day operations of the department, but has the FULL CONFIDENCE of the Mayor, who ony became Mayor because of the SHADOW CAMPAIGN he knowingly ran…..District of Corruption at its finest….

    And the reason the Inspector General looked into this last year and didn’t finish a report, because that’s what he’s good at…looking into things but never coming up with a final report.


    Earlier in the week the Chief stated he was unaware of the apparatus situation. He swore, under oath, to the levels of apparatus in the dept. He now says ladder testing wasn’t done last year do to lack if reserve ladder trucks. He just admitted he knew if the apparatus problem when he swore otherwise. As an officer in the department,if I or one of my members lie in connection to our duties, the DPM states quite clearly we can be terminated. Well the ball is in the mayor’s court. His chief has just been caught in several lies. If he is not terminated, nothing can stand in the discipline of this once great department. Disgusting!

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  • anonymous

    Ladder truck were not tested last year due to a lack of reserve ladder trucks, but they are able to test them now even though there is a lack of reserve ladder trucks? The statements LRB makes in response to the many issues during his tenure are just ridiculous.

  • anonymous

    Another LRB lie. He claims that “…since 2011, theDepartment has made purchases of apparatus. These deliveries include:

    6 Engines

    4 Trucks

    2 Rescue Squads”

    Those units listed above were ordered during the prior fire chief’s administration. They were received after LRB became chief, but he is trying to mislead again by making it appear he was responsible for acquiring that apparatus. Maybe in a technical sense the actual payment (the ‘purchase’) along with delivery didn’t occur until he took over, but those rigs were ordered by the prior chief and he does not deserve any credit for them.

  • Anonymous

    Thel adders can’t get put of of service for testing, but they sure can get put out of service to change the decals though!

  • anonymous

    It’s embarrassing when you see the DCFD now falling to the level of the Detroit FD. That is how things were 20 years ago in the DCFD, and LRB has definitely set the DCFD back 20 years.

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny all 16 trucks were able to get the DCFD decals taken off though!


      Don’t forget about all the company patches,lettering and lights that the members of the companies paid for out of their own pockets. God forbid that anyone has any pride in their job and Company, If it isn’t King LRB’s way it isn’t any good at all!!!

  • ANON

    A few posters comparing DC to Detroit:

    Detroit–collapsed industry and economy, mass exodus, no tax base….no ladder testing–understandable cause, but still disgraceful

    Washington DC–no economic collapse, no mass exodus, healthy tax base….no ladder testing—not understandable and even more disgraceful

    Both cities—incredible firefighters, incredible workload, incompetent leadership.

    Our nation’s capital….tough to comprehend.

  • Been There

    I have said it before and I will say it again. What kind of dirt does LRB have on the Mayor? No one could put up with this amount of corruption and incompetence willingly. Mayor Gray and the Chief are recklessly endangering both the citizens of the District and their firefighters. Maybe it is time for Congress to step in.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    @ Former Chief:
    Homeland Security is well aware of the unsecured apparatus graveyard only blocks away from the Capitol. But like I said in a previous post, the only people who CARE are the guys beating their brains out on the streets erryday with their “cushy” jobs. DC don’t care, neither do the feds.

    • Former Chief

      I was afraid that was the case. Having been involved in homeland security in a fairly large county, I have knowledge of the lack of emergency vehicle security across the country. I had hoped it would be taken more seriously in Washington D.C. But apparently, that is not the case. I would hope that this issue is brought to the public’s attention. In my opinion, the fact that so many jurisdictions, especially high target jurisdictions, are so lax when it comes to overall security is very concerning. More people need to make noise about these issues. I have been involved in quite a few heated discussions about homeland security issues, including emergency vehicles. To say I’m discouraged at the response is a gross understatement.


    @Been There….I’d say he has something on him….how can a Mayor not dismiss one of his appointees under him, when they’re found guilty of retaliation, let alone all the recent screw ups this idiot can’t own up too….i guess he still has confidence in Kendra to continually screw up and blame it on others…..least he’s consistent….I agree too…the feds don’t care, the council doesn’t care nor do they have the ability to terminate the Mayor’s appointees and so the story continues with no ending in site…..welcome to DC

  • FF

    When will the federal government take over this city? It seems like it needs to happen, from the incompetence of the fire department all the way up to the mayor.

  • Twin Tower

    Has anyone seen XRAY. I want to hear his spin on this one. I’m sure its someone else’s fault. When Your uniform shirt is pressed you can’t make mistakes.

    • xray

      Im here and always watching. Theres no spin but the roaches came out in droves including the king roach Hookman.Everything you all complain of was here with your beloved Rubin and shultz side show.You like them because you got to wear your dcfd on your back and they left you alone awww!.No accountability thats what you want,we know no surprises here.@Hookman are you going to flip sides again I mean you been known to do that.@ Twin Towers you don’t have to press your shirt just make sure its tucked in.

  • SkidMarks

    Cant take ladder companies out of service for testing but the two closet to the U.S. Capitol can be taken out of service for how many hours to form an arch for a race or for opening day at Nats Stadium? Oh…I get it. Looks good to walk or run under but no need for it to be safe for the members climbing it or the people who have to rescued by it. Makes sense now!

  • 21 Years w/ DCFire

    Don’t think I’d want the Feds to take over due to the Fiscal Cliff……They Furloughing people you know! I can’t take no Furlough Days, it’s bad enough the DC Government won’t pay me the money it owes people and now go under the Feds and they Furlough me, Heck Naw!!! But in a “Perfect World” we just need to get a new Mayor, Fire Chief, Deputy Mayor, More Hospitals, More Apparatus, More Ambulances & HIRE People for the extra Ambo’s…….maybe our problem will be solved!


    @Twin Tower….he’s hemming LRB’s new sack coat….hehehehe..sack

  • UsetobeDC

    I hope somebody is compiling all this into an email to send to Wells.
    Or if the Local is going to be testifying that they are aware of all these things and make the Council aware.

    Perhaps there is a member of Congress who could be contacted and made aware of the security and safety issues. And his office can contact the Council and put some more pressure on.

    Good luck brothers!!

    Hopefully Loserbe will be gone very soon!!

  • http://yahoo Long Gone

    I am a bit shocked that no has spoke to the fact that the FC limited funds given to fleet. It was another way to show he had ahndle on spending, altough the shop and it’s leadership is literally disfunctional, I find it incredibly timely that the AFC-Services has tendered his retirement papers.It is a shame his brother does not go as well before he hurts somebody and will ultimately pencilwhip it to be someone else’s fault. Start puttings things out of service based on safety, good chance that when the press gets it and therefore reducing the punitive chances,oh yea do not worry about missing a fire it is now time to act. I wonder if some retiring so quickly will now speak about any particular EEO cases, might as well since they trusted the snake in the cage and he still bit them. This should resonate through out K’s text group you know the guys that really do not do the job for the love of it. The guys who want never gave, never will probably start to hang on POD. Kind of like a BFC that has been hurt since he probably realized he cannot hide as a I/C and will ride it our till retirement.So many things are never spoken about due to retatlion from agency heads, the “info plants” he/they have thru out the ranks, some of his boys will ultimately cry foul the rest of their career till they slide into retirement. If the residents only knew !!!!!!!!


    From here on out….whatever isn’t done and is exposed by Local 36 via the media, will be followed by a program that Chief “BLAME IT ON SOMEONE ELSE” will have instituted the day before (coincidentally) something was known to have not been done or fixed….The only thing she’s accountable for is when one of the few snitches left rats out one of the brothers like the beer incident…..then we’ll be accountable, because then we can bring those responsible up on charges since our mission from day 1 was retaliation against those who pride themselves within the rich traditions of the DCFD and those who gave Rubes an occasional free prostate exam…ungloved