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DC Mayor’s spokesman: ‘previous administration left city unprepared’ and says fire department was ‘neglected’.

Mayor Vince Gray.

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Previous coverage of Chief Ellerbe & the DC Fire & EMS Department

March 8 press conference on recent EMS issues

Chief Ellerbe says ladder trucks not inspected last year because of lack of reserve rigs

Reporter ambushes Deputy Mayor Paul Quander about fleet & ladders

(NOTE: Sorry for three DC stories in a row, but the news keeps coming)

As we reported earlier this evening, WTTG-TV/Fox 5 reporter Paul Wagner is still trying to get Chief Kenneth Ellerbe or Deputy Mayor Paul Quander to talk about the disrepair of the DC Fire & EMS Department fleet. But apparently Wagner staked out the wrong person today. While Ellerbe and Quander aren’t talking, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray is speaking up about the state of the department and confirms it isn’t good. Pedro Ribeiro tells Washington Examiner reporter Alan Blinder it’s not their fault and that this was the mess they inherited from the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty and Fire Chief Dennis Rubin:

“The previous administration left the city unprepared. … It takes time to turn around a department that was neglected for so long,” said Ribeiro, who noted the agency has ordered or received 45 ambulances since Gray became mayor.

Here’s a little more from Blinder’s article:

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday that the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department suffered an “embarrassment” by being forced to acknowledge it misled city lawmakers last month about the state of its fleet.    “It’s always a concern of mine that the council receive accurate information,” Mendelson said. “It’s an embarrassment to the department that the information they provided turned out to be incorrect.”   

Read entire Washington Examiner article

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Comments - Add Yours

  • JackWagon

    For the love of God! Here we go with the blame game again! I just love hoe we can ALWAYS blame it on the previous administration.

    • RJ

      just taking a play from the guy at 1600…it worked for him

      its just that bush was never the fire chief

    • Lizard

      True to form with this Mayor, it’s everyone else’s fault but his own, bla blah bla…

  • Older than Ol’ School

    Wow! While I was reading a lovely article about my beloved fire department, another one just pop up about the Mayor’s PR dude defending Ellerbe. Dave take a break for few days and wait until after the Judiciary Committee hearing next week. You have to pace yourself. Poor Vitto, he doesn’t have anything to do.

    • dave statter

      Yes, please take a break. Can you just keep everyone off of TV and out of the papers for a while?

      • Hydro Engineer

        How can we blame this on the last Administration when all of our new apparatus was ordered by them. The apparatus may have arrived while lrb was here,but Rubin ordered them!!! lrb has done nothing to Improve this department!

        • anonymous

          That is true. Since LRB has been chief not one fire engine or ladder truck has been ordered.

          The new engines, ladder trucks, rescue squads, and foam unit were all purchased by the prior administration. They were delivered after LRB took over, but he had nothing to do with their acquisition.

  • Older than Ol’ School

    What I would give to have a helmet cam shot of a structure fire in DC ( of course no one gets hurt) instead of Ellerbee in sunglasses or the back of Quander’s dome ,while he is running from a reporter.

  • mark

    Of course, it was Bush’s fault.

    Should’ve known.

  • 7House

    Am I the only one that knows there are other fire department issues outside of the DC area? Let’s rename the blog “DC area fire boringness”? As much as the DCFD complains, they are better off then other cities.

    • Wilson Says

      I am sure the fine men and women of DCFD don’t feel the same. This is serious stuff that gives the entire fire service a bad name. It definately deserves the light of day! It is hard to truely appreciate what DCFD members deal with on a daily basis without walking in their shoes. Be strong, Stay safe DCFD!

      • Anonymous

        Sure we feel good about climbing areial ladders that haven’t been ladder tested in 3 years on 10 year old apparatus knowing that when it fails we will be retired on disability with 40% of 70% which is already a reality for a few of our brothers.

    • hoof arted

      Maybe we’re better off because we complain. What are your department issues that you want the world to know about, 7House?

    • DCFire1

      So sorry 7house…that real issues detract from your buffing my friend but as a retired DCFD member these issues are important to the Citizens, Visitors and Firemen located within the confines of the District of Columbia! Understand the FD has enuff problems but management is playing a game of “Back to the Future” all of these problems are mismanagement that can cause severe harm to those who serve and whom are served! Have a nice day and hope this crap never happens wherever it is you work!

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    7House, why don’t you just start your own website? DC is a target rich environment, a reporter’s wet dream. chairman phil, mayor vinnie, deputy p, and mr. e, ERRYDAY you clowns prove exactly why you shouldn’t be taking home the salaries you do. I agree that the DCFD has been neglected. FOR THE LAST TWO STINKIN’ YEARS. Fortunately we did get the priorities taken care of, replacing those pesky door seals on ALL the apparatus, stripping DCFD off of everything, and pressed uniform shirts for everybody. Whew! It’s been a BUSY two years! That and the fact that we are accomplishing a never before attempted feat of time travel back to the GLORY DAYS OF THE 80’s!! And we’ve got the Post op-ed board on board too! Tell me, what kool aid is everyone drinking, I’d like some too. I think there might be the tiniest of leaks coming from Grimke though, why else would we get an article in the paper extolling the virtues of 3-3-3 in the midst of contract negotiations? And true to this administration’s complete lack of imagination, this little op-ed piece is just a regurgitation of the Post’s previous op-ed entitled “A Shift for the Better”, and that was two years ago! Yep, it’s old DC again circa 1980, DC government is gonna do what they want and lose it all later in court, that’s just how we roll. The added bonus is that it’s a much more efficient expenditure of taxpayer funds. A small hint for the brain trust at Grimke, the Post simply doesn’t carry the weight they used to, you know, the post Watergate Post, they seem to have lost their sense of objectivity, but since when does objectivity matter to a “major” “news” publication? Enough of my rant, I’m going back to my National Enquirer, much more informative and stangely, I don’t feel dumber for having read it.

  • Anonymous

    Sure we feel good about climbing areial ladders that haven’t been ladder tested in 3 years on 10 year old apparatus knowing that when it fails we will be retired on disability with 40% of 70%

    • Hydro Engineer

      You might not get much for a retirement check, But…. if a Firefighter or civilian get hurt on a untested ladder, a good lawyer will be your best friend! With reports, recommendations, and O.S.H.A. you will get PAID!!!!

      • Brian

        if you live.

  • Anonymous

    Day in and day out even with things are they way they are we go out and give our all. As shown by several rescues on numerous incidents over the pass few weeks. This city has billions in surplus, but we don’t have adequate equipment. It’s all fun and games until the ish hits the fan. How soon people forget.

  • Anonymous

    Well what everyone doesn’t realize and while it appears that we are complaining we are starting the trend for fighting for safety issues that will transcend for other departments to be able to fight for. So if that’s the case you can call us complainers winers or whatever!!!!! DCFD4LIFE

  • Anonymous

    Wow what an excuse… and how long has the current fire admin been in place? LONG ENOUGH TO FIX THE PROBLEM “IF” the previous admn left a problem. Strike Da Box!

  • 1dctaxpayer

    Ok The fire Department has been neglected for years vinny, Why did your fire chief not ask for more funding?
    I know why because he is a moron with an agneda, and it has nothing to do with making this department better.
    pass the buck its all you know.. ” it was my accountants fault,
    The Deputy gave you old information, I was looking at her name tag”. and on and on.

  • watchdogdc

    The previous administration of the Fire and EMS Department had an apparatus replacement schedule. The apparatus that has been delivered during the tenure of Chief Ellerbe with exception of a few EMS transport units was all ordered under the previous administrations replacement plan. The current Administration has failed to maintain that plan which was evident in 2011 when the labor union raised questions about the status of the aginging ladder truck fleet(WJLA April 2011)after a fire on 48th place where one of the ladder trucks for that emergency had to come from a greater distance due to one of the closest units being out of service. The current situation with the Fire and EMS Department is mostly a manufactured crisis caused by Chief Ellerbe and Deputy Mayor Paul Quander in an effort to disrupt the current work schedule the Firefighters work. The two of the individuals have created the staffing crisis by allowing the rate of current vacancies to rise to over 200 positions which is unaccepable when each of those positions are fully funded with the Fire Departments Budgetand ther is a current applicant registar with 4 to 5 hundered qualified applicants that tested for the position of Firefighter and are waiting to be hired. It is also unacceptable that the apparatus fleet is in such disrepair and the Fire Chief has turned unspent money back in from his budget each year he has been in his position. The citizens are now going to suffer for atleast the next 18 to 24 months minimum from this manufactured crisis and that is the short end if the two responsible are removed from their position and start the recovery process. If these to are allowed to continue the problem will only get worst and there will without a doubt be more failures and death. I would like to also point out that the Men and Women who work everyday in this enviroment should not be subject to more danger that the job itself already brings. To purposley violate national safety standardsexposing those employees to undue dangers should and might already be criminal in nature that alone shoulod prompt the immidiate termination of the two clowns responsible for the manufactured crisis in the Fire and EMS Department.


    Everytime I see this pic of Vincent..the first thing that enters my mind is….I VONT TO SUCK YO BLOOD….

    @7house….yeah I agree..we’ve been in the news lately for things you might call boring or maybe you’re just upset that Dave isn’t posting more dramatic helmet cam footage of a garage fire, however, the issues that everyone has commented about and are becoming news worthy, are very serious and for a department with a budget such as the Nations Capitol, its unacceptable…..

    If you believe these issues aren’t newsworthy or in your mind boring, I’d ask you and your 7hose brothers to march down to 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW with a bullhorn and demand the answers that even a reporter cannot obtain….

  • SrFireOfficial

    Let’s look back 30 years to 1983, just as I was graduating from college and about to embark on my own career as a firefighter in northern Virginia. Mayor (almost for life) Marion Barry had appointed his buddy Theodore Coleman as chief of the DC Fire Department. As I recall, it was during this time frame that the first issues within DCFD EMS were beginning to surface, chiefly that they were unable to locate the addresses that they were dispatched to for medical calls.

    Hizzoner, Mayor for Life Marion Barry, “fixed” that problem by dispatching fire companies on almost every if not all EMS calls citywide. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that this lead to massive wear and tear on the department’s rolling stock. In fact, a few years later, just prior or during the oversight of city spending by the Financial Control Board (FCB), Dave Statter did a report on how much of the city’s fire apparatus was breaking down, showing a rescue company operating off of a reserve pumper because no reserve heavy rescue apparatus was available. The same report showed in great detail how members of that rescue company were paying for repairs for heavy lift air bags out of their own pockets.

    Whether directly or indirectly a result of the double line of duty deaths at the Cherry Road NE fire in 1999. former IAFF Local 36 president Frank Tippet was appointed acting fire chief of DCFD and there was a glimmer of hope for members of DCFD. One of the findings from the reconstruction reports conducted showed that Truck 13 was out of service that night and would have been two minutes closer than first arriving Truck 26. Everyone in the fire service from probie to retired fire chief knows that in two minutes, 120 seconds, a lot of truck work can be accomplished by an experienced and well-drilled truck company.

    One of Chief Tippet’s early executive decisions as the District’s acting fire chief (I don’t recall that he was ever confirmed) was to bolster the sagging truck company fleet in DCFD with the purchase of at least two, used tractor-drawn Seagrave aerial ladder trucks that the city of Richmond (VA) had retired. If memory serves me well, other recommendations from the Cherry Road fire reconstruction report included the assignment of command aides to battalion chiefs and up-staffing of truck companies. Chief Tippet boldly used overtime funds to achieve these recommendations which flew in the face of the District’s FCB. Rather than compromise firefighter safety on his watch, Frank Tippet stepped down from his position.

    I’ve lived and paid income, real estate and sales taxes within DC proper for the last decade and have more than a casual observer’s level of knowledge of fire and EMS operations. I admire the speed and alacrity of DC’s Bravest turning out on a box alarm and the efficiency with which structural firefighting operations are conducted within the city. I admire that the dedication members of the firefighting division display in the performance of their duties, even in the adverse conditions fostered by mismanagement.

    Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

    • dave statter

      You are a little early on my reporting. While I did report on DCFD in radio, it was at Channel 9 starting in 1985 that what you are talking about occurred. TR Coleman was chief. I don’t recall if he was still chief when the rescue squad incident occurred (I think it was later … either Ray Alfred or Otis Latin) but I believe my coverage of that incident along with a few earlier stories on lost ambulances prompted some pretty strong editorials from the Washingon Post. An excellent jounalist named Bob Asher wrote those (doing what Jo-Ann Armao does today).

      It would be Tom Tippett who you are referring to. He was the former Local 36 president and later acting chief under Mayor Anthony Williams. Tom did bring in the used trucks from Richmond in an effort to stop the bleeding. Just before Tom took over were the days that only three or four ladder trucks were in operation and when I saw the one on a fireground without a tiller seat and ambushed an assistant fire chief (and I thought you didn’t do ambush interviews, Dave?). Tom was also the chief, as I recall, who reopened Engine 3.

      But your memory is pretty good.



    @WatchdogDC….well said!!!!

  • Titanic

    Does anyone else remember a council hearing where lrb was asked about the FD budget and whether he could use more money? One of the questions specifically regarded more he wanted money for apparatus. Lrb sang something to the tune of “no thanks, the budget is adequate”. Since being appointed lrb also stopped ordering new apparatus. Sounds like the fleet was just fine when he started his new appointment.

    • dave statter

      The question was asked by Councilmember Jack Evans. I believe it was at the same hearing when the logo issue came up, but I could be wrong.

      • watchdogdc

        Dave you are correct that question was asked by Mr. Evans during previous hearings with Chief Ellerbe stating the Fire and EMS Department was just fine. Chief Ellerbe has stated to members of the department numerous times that he works for the Mayor and if he answered that question yes the Mayor would have terminated him because that answer did not support the Mayors budget plan. That would be an OK answer by Chief Ellerbe if he spent the current budget but he has not he has returned money approved in the budget during both budget years he has been at the helm thinking this makes him look like a great manager because he operates under budget. Mean while what he think makes him look good cost the citizens the service they pay for and has been approved in the budget. The Chief Really looks efficient now. NOT

  • Anonymous

    So far everything that has been Reported and/or sid in comments, TV Media has been to put blame on others. The Truth be Known, It all starts from the TOP. You Ellerbee, and your Deputy Mayor Quander are solely responsible. If in fact the DC Fire and EMS Sept. was left neglected, then the current Administration has the sole job to correct any/all issues at hand. (1) How about the Rennovation of Engine 28/Truck 14 Quarters. Both units have been relocated to other Stations thus making Response a longer time frame. Engine 28’s Quarters was obviously closed due to in unliveable conditions. There was
    an effort by previous administration to completely rennovate Engine 28’s Quarters and Engine 29/Truck 5 Quarters. To date I donot believe any work or effort has been attempted to carry out these critical work issues. How about the area where Walter
    Reed Hospital and Fire SZtation was, DC Fire and EMS was supposed to build a Station Georgia Avenue and Butternut Street NW. Engine 22/Truck 11 and Engine 24 have an increased Response time to serve the people in and around this area. Thewn the issue of Staffing for EMS Vehicles, as most noteable on a Holiday. Then the issue of unavailable EMS Responses due towhat was reported lack of available vehicles. To further insult the Professionalism of the Fine Men and Women of DC Fire and EMS an EMS Emergency where the Ambulance (A6) drove past the victims house going to a Fire Station to see if that Ambulance could handle their call. The Patient was an Elderly perso Head Injury from a Fall. Unknown how serious the Patient may have suffered this Injury. Apparatus lined up on the street by Apparatus Repair shop. Issues about overtime for the Mechanics came into focus. Ellewrbee keeps turning back un used Money to make himself not the DC Fire and EMS Dept look good in the eyes of the Mayor. Short changing the Funds needed to ensure Staffing and available Response units, is yours Ellerbee. Solely responsible to make sure the Taxpayers are receiving the necessary Professional Service they deserve and expect. The Decent Men and Women of DC Fire and EMS everyday work very hard to ensure their duties are carried out with the Highest Standards of DC Fire and EMS. “Ellerbee wake up smell the coffee,do your job, or get out”

  • Anonymous

    Maybe Paul Wagner’s next order of business is to dig and find out how many pieces of apparatus were spec’d and ordered under the last administration and compare it to this administration. I’m sure LRB will just put the number of Ambulances that were spec’d and ordered under the previous administration, out there as his own. However taking delivery of apparatus that was ordered by the last regime and calling it your own does not count. The only reason DCFD is neglected and unprepared now is because of the Mayor,and his buddy LRB. If Mr. Paul Wagner keeps up his hard work to reveil the truth, he and Charlie LeDuff may just be in competition to see who can bring down the criminals at the top first.

  • Anonymous

    Man now that’s some truth for you right there! Had a certain seasoned, experienced, hell of an officer by the name of Cadillac not been paying attention, and noticed the conditions rapidly change when he did. Instead of our brothers being burned Chucky Ryan being the worse, we would have been going to funerals. But hey what do you need with a guy like that leading a crew into a fire right?

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    BINGO watchdogdc! 100% manufactured crisis by the nitwits in charge, all for a little social engineering and a romp back to the 80’s! Is this the only place on the planet that is flush with cash , to the tune of nearly half a BILLION dollars, has its population steadily increasing, wants to decrease the staffing of what used to be considered a core service, and is now having trouble providing that core service? One thing’s for sure, all the nwic’s (nitwits ins charge) are sticking together, they’ve even managed to get the Post to swill the same Kool Aid, incredible! On March 28 we’ll get to see exactly what kind of mettle the Chairman of the Judiciary is made of, but I’m not expecting much, probably a gentle tongue lashing for the mr. e show and then we’ll continue to roll merrily along. Note to all nwic’s: The truth ALWAYS comes out. This one is particularly ugly so enjoy the ride!

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Thank you, sir. Just a few clarifications, and I’m not nitpicking. Thomas N. Tippett, Truck 15 (not 26), he was never confirmed as Fire Chief, and it was 3 retired ladder trucks from Richmond that were bought for $10,000 dollars and placed immediately in service. Other than that, you’re spot on.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Tom Tippett reopened E-3.

  • SrFireOfficial

    I appreciate the clarifications!

  • http://firehouse/yahoo NJ AVE Gang

    Well this certainly is a compilation of facts and horror regarding apparatus that would never transcend into neighboring departments.Much has been said to all the poor management, some tried to shed light on ” I am going to get you” but remember this guy has literally sat back and watched many previous administrations manipulate people, no one has mentioned that he was essentially demoted by a fire chief that was a city resident, an african american and a man or maral value. The fact that some of victims of his previous bad behavior are still in the agency and frankly scared to death of his retaliation should speak volumes.The only thing no has dared to talk about are his motives. We know he is not stupid and may think is just another step away from self destruction, I think not he continue to destroy moral and firefighting until someone is actually backed into a corner and the Feds are involved.He and the mayor are deep, they both have ego’s that go back to high school in that both of them are P*(*%%^ at worl since niether went to college to play baseball. Do not laugh that is just the start, the mayor was and is an old throw back of old DC politics, he never did anything to leave a positive mark on anything, K too has had a career of the same he was a terrible F/F at T-8, an investigator of old, short time Lt at 30, was coddeled by the Ga ave mafia under the Edwards adm, sorry Donny it is what it is. Adrian gave him all the chances he could and he still failed. Come on guys get smart, your turn to be the vitim for real not just in the press. Make him show what he really is?

    • anonymous

      He was technically not demoted by Chief Thompson. He was the acting/AFC-S and was put back as a DFC. Though, in reality you are correct that he was demoted as Chief Thompson moved him out of the A/AFC-S position and back to DFC for a good reason. That reason remains hidden…

  • http://firehouse/yahoo NJ AVE Gang

    Hey Dave keep in going, Please find a way to place spell check on the reply box!!!!!!!!!

  • 1dctaxpayer

    I wonder how many people Ellerbe will bring to the oversight hearing to testify how great he is, prior to the finger pointing, lying sesion. BTW his lies are coming full circle.

  • Anonymous

    If we go back and look at the removal of the old decals from fire apparatus to the current DCFD patch, you will see that ALL new apparatus, I believe, were ordered with the “Rubin” patch on it, which was removed and replaced. Therefore it can be assumed that they were ordered under the Rubin Administration??

    I would have to say that the ambo’s if ordered under a pervious admin, the stickers where changed before arrival.

    To prove that also look at the seats inside the apparatus with embroidered seals on them, things that make you go hmmmmmm. . . . .

  • oopswediditagain

    Yes Watchdogdc has hit the nail on the Fire Chiefs head. The key word in his response here is responsibility. Neither the Fire Chief or the Deputy Mayor have at any time taken RESPONSIBILITY for any of the issues. They only seem to deflect it to someone else or to a system they “inherited”. At NO TIME do they admit that they have anything to do with the problems and acknowledge that they will fix them. They continue to shift the blame for their incompetence and charge those that they placed in positions that were clearly not qualified. It is unfortunate that a DFC had to retire when he couldn’t admit to the public that he needed more money budgeted for Maintenance of Apparatus so as not to embarrass the Fire Chief. Even after the Fire Chief was asked on at least one occasion why DCFEMS was the only agency who did not request an increase in his budget and and turned down the increase in funding.

  • steve

    Just keepin it real.
    Just as Tippett re-opened Engine Co #3, he closed the dedicated Haz Mat Unit. An absurd decision for the Nation’s Capital in the modern era.

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    ALL Chiefs make unpopular or bad decisions. So do Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, and dare I say it, Privates. I’m reasonably sure EVERYBODY makes unpopular or bad decisions. Just keepin it real.