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Like Mayor Vince Gray, Washington Post Editorial Board has confidence in Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. Supports EMS redeployment & shift change.

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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

Even with, or possibly because, of all the bad press and self inflicted wounds of the last few weeks, the Editorial Board of The Washington Post gave its own vote of confidence to Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. In an editorial posted online last night and in today’s print edition, the Post supports Chief Ellerbe’s idea of EMS redeployment and the proposed move away from 24-hour shifts for firefighters. The editorial gives the indication those are the solutions to what ails the DC Fire & EMS Department. The editorial does not cover any of the recent issues about the disrepair of the department’s fleet of ambulances and fire trucks and the questions surrounding Chief Ellerbe’s handling of that issue.

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs of the editorial:

Demand for ambulance service drops off at 1 a.m. and doesn’t pick up again until about 7 a.m. D.C. fire and emergency medical officials argue it makes sense to move some crews and equipment that are sitting idle to times when they are needed. The fact that such a common-sense change has yet to happen is testament to the dysfunctional politics that have brought the department to what Kenneth B. Ellerbe, chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, called a “tipping point.”

Mr. Ellerbe makes a strong case for breaking with tradition in how the department schedules and deploys its staff. The mission of the department has changed as the result of advances in building safety and fire prevention; more than 80 percent of calls are for medical emergencies, not fires. There is no understating the importance of firefighters or the considerable risks they take, and they have raised issues that bear scrutiny. But decisions about the direction of the department should be made by those in charge, based on what best serves public needs.  

Read entire editorial


Comments - Add Yours

  • the ear

    This has turned into a real fiasco.Everyday a new issue or an update to the continuous EMS saga.
    Correct me if I am wrong but I thought a shift change was a negotiated item in the contracy with Local36. I don’t believe he can just change things to the way he wants to operate the department.

  • JackWagon

    The editorial board of the Washington Post needs to stop sitting around that big luxury table at 1150 15th Street. I invite Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl to come ride along with some of the bravest people in the world to see what these brave men and women do everyday. But then again I don’t see the Fire Chief approving this either and thats because LRB has the Washington Post in his back pocket just like the rest of the Idoits that support him.

    • Tony Araujo

      Predictable. Anybody who doesn’t belong to the religion of the Maltese Cross and has the temerity to say that the Fire Department might be able to be more efficient and effective gets shot down because they’re not only “ignorant” but also “cowards”. I for one am glad air plane pilots and truck drivers aren’t allowed to work 24 hour shifts.

      For your information from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics for 2011 the most dangerous jobs are in order: 1. Fishing 2. Logging 3. Mining 4. Flying 5. Garbage Collectors 6. Roofers 7. Taxi Drivers 8. Police Officers 9. Self Employed 10. Security Guards

      Firefighters? At 2.5 on-the-job deaths per 100,000 their jobs are slightly safer than the Average Joe at 3.5 per 100,000 and slightly more dangerous than Cashiers at 1.6 per 100,000.

      Brave? Slightly more than a Cashier I guess.

      • dave statter

        Hey Tony. I, of course, am going to let your posts through. But why? What good is going to come of it. Does it make you happy when they start lobbing stuff your way? These aren’t the people you need to convince with your agenda. Couldn’t your time be better spent taking your arguments to decision makers to get them to change policies that upset you?


      • JackWagon

        Tony, Nice website you have! I guess at some point in life you tried to become a fireman and didnt make the cut. I feel sorry for you. I wouldnt have any other job in the world but being a Fireman. 26 Years on this JOB and their is always one person like you that has your mind made up off of useless facts created because of money.

        Stay in Ontario and worry about the factLESS website you have and NOT what’s going on here in the wonderful U.S.A.

        • Anonymous

          so, this Tony guy, got 3 guys fired in Canada.

      • Greg Turnell

        Hey Tony,

        Since I have been on the job in DC we have lost 5 brothers, killed in the line of duty. I have attended countless funerals around the country for firefighters, killed in the line of duty. What I have experienced on this job in the last 27 years gives no credence to your numbers nor does it reflect the true hazard of our job. When we lose firefighters in the line of duty it’s usually several together. This is testimony to the brotherhood, we work together, we die together. Tell me, whens the last time 343 cashiers died at the register? I surmise that you are a male individual that has never experience the true blessing of honor, selfless service or the test of true courage.

        • Hafiz

          Tony is a pissed off Toronto Paramedic. We’ve (TFS) have had a few of them slamming us publicly over the past few years ever since the new Mayor took office. However, tony is the one who appears to have the biggest chip on his shoulders and the more free time than anyone. Bottom line, he’s a coward and a loudmouth. He’s directly responsible for 3 Toronto firefighters being fired over social media violations. He scours known FF’s social media pages for anything he can use. I hope he gets to personally meet some of the guys he’s responsible for losing their jobs.

      • Barney Miller

        Dear Tony,

        I will not be a typical imp that would attack you on the levels that you expect. I will though call your attention to the fact that of all 10 jobs listed on one of them(police officers) gives self to protect others while at work.

        When we go to “work” we will find your child If you have one, your wife If you have one, protect your computer from water damage if we find it before th fire does.

        See we “Protect” life and property in that order. Now there a 1 million firefighters in the state of Pennsyvania alone. so your numbers are skewed. We bury about 110 firefighters/ year on average. Imagine just for a second that we allow poor administrations to act without reguard to safety (like they did in th coal mine days) and that crew who would come to your beck and call or your families beck and call, was killed or injured. OR their ladder wouldnt get to your window. HMMMM dirty firemen only looking out for themselves!

        Well we are a “religion” so to speak. We live, breath and train hard so when we are called to help you there are NO excuses. It is a mind set and a family that loves and works for each other, because most common minds cant understand our tears fears and emotions. We rely on each other because most average people do not have our integrity and selflessness. Sure we have a few bad apples here and there but for the most part when we are done helping we go to the next call.

        One old old fire chief said, this noble calling is the work of God himself. For one man to lay down his life for another.
        But being scientific(numbers guy) you may not believe in God. Some day you will. On the final day or the day you can’t find you way out of your smokey home, he will send his select soldiers to get you. We will throw our half broken ladders through your window and climb up to get you. See we NEVER stop trying…it is our Religion.

      • Former Chief

        Mr. Araujo, I looked at your website and don’t see any comments from you on why you are apparently opposed to the Toronto Fire Service. You only cite statistics on their shortcomings and the Toronto Fire Unions stance that cuts in the fire service will result in diminished public safety. I’ll just assume that you are a taxpayer watchdog and that you also call into question other “excessive” spending by the City of Toronto. I would hope you do not have a personal vendetta against the Toronto Fire Service.
        I would like to point out several things that you may not be aware of. First, the fire service in general, both in the United States and Canada, career and volunteer, have in many cases been doing more with less. Budget restraints have led to reduced personnel, closed fire stations, wage and salary freezes and reductions. Apparatus purchases have been curtailed and repairs and maintenance are suffering. There have been instances where these reductions have had tragic results. In my experience, fire departments need to be proactive in defending their staffing and response capabilities. Elected officials often will “take a mile” if you give up an inch.
        I for one, am quite proud that the fire service has reduced the number of Firefighter deaths. Having been a Firefighter since 1975, I have personal knowledge of the improvements in fire prevention, equipment, training, and tactics. My pride is tempered however, with the fact that the number of actual fires has decreased, and we are still loosing close to the same number of Firefighters each year that we were 37 years ago when I first became a Firefighter. I don’t know all the reasons for this, but I wonder if it because we are responding with fewer Firefighters in many cases, which leads to our personnel having to do more with less and putting them in more jeopardy.
        I know many progressive fire departments who strive to be more efficient and effective. I somewhat resent your inference otherwise.
        While I could go on to defend Firefighters in general, and the risks they take every day, based on your terse response, I doubt any reasoning would convince you of their worth.
        I will say this, as a third generation Firefighter, and the father of two career Firefighters who will put themselves before others, including individuals like yourself who do not value our sacrifices, I am quite proud to belong to the religion of the Maltese Cross. I feel sorry for you actually. You will never know the feeling of being bound by our Brotherhood. Good day sir.

      • Johnybegood

        It is very obvious that you Tony have a problem with firefighters in Toronto. You have now caused the firings of 3 TFD employees. You must have had to look long and hard to find that they have posted on twitter and or facebook and that they made the odd post while on duty. I wonder if all the posts you make on this site and the dozens if not hundreds of others are done on your own time. I also wonder why anyone would be driven to the extent that you have in order to try and make TFS personnel look bad and or get fired. This to me points to you having a mental problem of sorts. Everything you comment on has to do with slamming Toronto emergency services and mainly TFD. You continually talk about tax payers money being wasted. If this is your concern, then maybe you should be looking at ALL of the waste in Toronto and not just one department. We all know that there is waste to one extent or another in all departments. Tony, why don’t you go after the Toronto Police? Why don’t you search all the officers in the TPS and report them for posts on twitter or facebook? I know why….you don’t have the cojouns. What you should really be doing is googling a good doctor whos couch you could lay down on and get all of the pain out before it kills you.

  • Former Chief

    So the public safety experts on the Washington Post Editorial Board know what’s best for emergency services in DC. Smashing. And what a coincidence the Editorial Board (whoever they are) decided this was the time for an editorial supporting Ellerbe. More like the “independent” journalists were told by the Administration they had to write something positive now because the rest of the news media in DC are keeping the heat on.

    • dave statter

      It really doesn’t work that way at The Washington Post Former Chief. It is really the work of one person who handles the DC editorials for the board. it is not my job to defend her but I am reasonably certain her judgment is based on things other than you suggest.

      • Commenter

        Dave, can you explain the Editorial board process to laypeople? Particularly this line: “News reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions, and editorial board members don’t have any role in news coverage.”

        So, the editorial board does not consist of news editors?

        • dave statter

          Better than me explaining it, here is your answer straight from The Washington Post website. Note that Jo-Ann Armao is the woman I mentioned concentrating on DC affairs. These are all veteran reporters and editors. Like any reporter they often gather their own information and are informed by a variety of sources. I know in the past Armao and the people who do that job will have conversations with people on various sides of the issue before writing an editorial like this. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the man who handled the DC editorials wrote a number of them based on my coverage of ambulance crews that couldn’t find addresses. And I believe they did one on a story I wrote about fleet and equipment issues on the fire side. Have to look to verify it.

          Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the editorial board. The board includes: Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Jackson Diehl; Jo-Ann Armao , who specializes in education and District affairs; Jonathan Capehart, who focuses on national politics; Lee Hockstader, who writes about political and other issues affecting Virginia and Maryland; Charles Lane, who concentrates on economic policy, trade and globalization; Stephen Stromberg, who specializes in energy, the environment, public health and other federal policy; and editorial cartoonist Tom Toles. Op-ed editor Autumn Brewington, opinions editor for digital Marisa Bellack and letters editor Michael Larabee also take part in board discussions. The board highlights issues it thinks are important and responds to news events, mindful of stands it has taken in previous editorials and principles that have animated Post editorial boards over time. Articles in the news pages sometimes prompt ideas for editorials, but every editorial is based on original reporting. News reporters and editors never contribute to editorial board discussions, and editorial board members don’t have any role in news coverage.

      • Former Chief

        Dave, you definitely have more knowledge of the situation there and the workings of the editorial board than I do and I hope you’re correct that this particular editorial is based on other facts. I just find it suspect that this editorial appeared when the media has been addressing all of the issues facing DCFD. Some other posters here seem concerned that there was influence from the DC Administraion. I am encouraged that the DC media is covering the issues and keeping them in the public mind. I’ll be optimistic and hope the scrutiny leads to things getting better for DCFD.

        • dave statter

          As misguided as they can be at times (and I am talking general here), I am very certain it’s not a corrupt process.


  • Unbelieveable

    Based upon what I am reading it appears that both the Mayor and his assistants along with DCFD management are all breathing the propellent used in RediWhip, Nitrous oxide.

  • UsetobeDC

    I’m curious if the Washington Post editorial board actually read and understands either of these proposals.

    Or they were just enamored with Loserbe’s bullsh*t.

    Or perhaps they too are childhood friends of Incompetence Incarnate.

  • mark

    What do a bunch of DA reporters know, anyways?

    With Dave being the exception, OF COURSE.

    So seriously, do these morons go out on the street and talk to the men and women on the line?

    Or does this just show that MSM really is completely out of touch with reality, and far from being objective. Or being able to ask anything but softball questions.

    • dave statter

      They are not reporters. Just former reporters and editors who write the opinions for the paper. So I am a DA reporter who actually knows something Mark? What a complement.

  • Anonymous

    It is known that the Fire Chief has an employee working in the PIO Office who worked for the Wash Post. I believe she actually wrote editorials ;-) while at the Post.

    I don’t believe Ellerbe will be in his spot much longer, anyway.


    I believe that Mayor Gray, Chief Fraud and the Wash Post combined, could not lead a family of 5 mice to a block of cheese….

  • Really Disappointed

    get serious! lets play this scenario out. the majority of the residents and visitors to the city will never require the use of the 911 system. they go to the doctor regularly and take care of themselves. however 911 by definition is for EMERGENCIES! how would it be if you wake up in a panic and are experiencing severe chest pains. you dial 911 and they assure you that help is on the way. firemen show up and explain that there are no transport units available because the fire chief is playing russian roulette with your life. shame on you WASHINGTON POST! what reason would your paper have to support a plan that proposes 14 fewer transport units overnight. you must not live in the city or do not value your life. you have no idea what you are talking about so either educate yourself or shut up. i welcome you to just listen to channel 1 dispatch and you decide that all of the people that are calling in overnight dont deserve the same level of care as the daytime tourists. come and ride an ambulance and see how much sleep you get. if this plan comes to fruition you can count on a disastrous lack of service. people will unfortunately die as a result.

  • A concerned taxpayer

    No wonder readership is down at The Post. Taking idiotic positions that are contrary to the greater good, turns people away.

  • Harvard Grad

    Two bias people oversee the Post Editorial page, hardly the opinion of the paper.

    • dave statter

      Most likely the editorial is the work of one person who usually concentrates on local DC issues.

  • Aardvark

    Urban Editorial board standing behind an Urban public Official. Shocking.

  • Andy Nonomous

    From the editorial-“Significantly, the union that represents the department’s civilian paramedics agrees with the chief that the issue is not, as the firefighters union argues, insufficient resources but instead a lack of flexibility in the system.” Interesting from the EMS union since their members will benifit by not have to work midnight shifts.I wish the (comp)Post would do a little investigative journalism and look at the absenteeism for the single role providers vs the dual role providers

  • Brokenhearted

    This is just complete ignorance on the part of the WaPo. They are historically anti labor and are writing editorials that have no foundation in reality. I can’t even believe what is happening, this doesn’t even seem real anymore.


    @Tony DBag….what is it that you do that makes you think neing a fireman is not a dangerous job….well besides your stat sheets….having top quality gear, increased training to apparatus being in good condition are just a few things that make our job today alot safer…..anytime a fireman goea into a structure fire, they risk their life…..As it relates to the recent issues in DC….the apparatus we rely on to get us to the calls safely and the equipment on it, must be working 24/7 and if its not, there better be a back up ready to go that’s in as good shape, if not better than the piece that was just replaced….If our apparatus and equipment are not in proper working order….than just this alone jeopardizes the lives of fireman each day they come to work…..So tell us Tony…what have you done in your field of employment where you’ve risked YOUR life….Im guessing you haven’t done anything, as nothing daring ever happens in the basement mailroom where your employed….

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    I think what everyone is missing here is that there is also a SHADOW Op-Ed board at the Post also. I believe mayor vinnie is the head guy.

  • Wayne

    Its all a big coverup, Chief swears under oath about facts knowing there wrong but saves his ass by using a fall guy. Maybe the high ups should be required to work in the field one day and see what happens when they need help and cant get

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Maybe ALL the mighty, omniscient politicians and their hand puppet appointees should have been required to sign the same ethics pledge that the peon, underling peasants did, and if not, it might have been a good idea to at least read it.

  • Hoofhearted

    Tony Araujo, is a disgruntled Toronto paramed-dick, who, like many of his ” brothers and sisters” have a stick up his ass over a study to unite fire and ems. Ignore his whinny rants.

    • Toronto_EMCA

      Tony Araujo doesn’t speak for anyone but himself. He is not respected within Toronto EMS, often bad-mouthing and talking about his peers. Its sad to see a person who took on a job to help others have so much anger and frustration especially towards Toronto Fire Services. He definitely requires anger management and counselling.

  • oopswediditagain

    REALLY ONLY one person speaks for the post and endorses confidence in the FC? She speaks for the paper? WOW I actually thought that it WAS the view of the WP that the FC was doing a great job. SHWWWW thank god it is only one idiots opinion. Maybe if they polled the rest of the cast we can get the real scoop.

    • dave statter

      I don’t know how they vet each editorial. She is the point person for DC issues and would do whatever factfinding/reporting, along with the writing. At least that’s the way I understand it.

  • Steve

    Dc fire is a laughing stock of an agency to the rest of the USA and you guys are defending the status quo?

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    DC’s status quo is not nearly as high as most normal places. That’s just how we roll.

  • Tony Araujo


    I’ve always assumed that you publish your blog because you want to generate discussion within the fire and EMS communities for the purpose of illustrating to this community that their issues can appear different when viewed thru the reporter’s lens. I’m also assuming that you believe that some good can come out of this enlightened discussion, both for you and for the community at large.

    “Lobbing” as you’ve characterized my post, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You’ve been known to lob a few grenades that you know are going to inflame your audience. Like the video of a citizen calling firefighters “terrorists” and attacks on the Chief of DCFD as “the work of the devil”? If this ain’t an M67 frag, I don’t know what is.

    You’ve worked with the Post, you know they’re not buffoons or corporate lackeys. So when the Post’s editorial board says things at DCFD are in need of an overhaul, some of what they say has to have more than a grain of truth. The lesson I learned from the comments to this post is that only firefighters know what’s best for the fire service and that if you’re not one of these brave heroes you have no right to comment. Every other viewpoint, no matter where it comes from, is dealt with predictably. They’re either “idiots”, “cowards” or “firefighter wannabe’s who washed out of the Academy”. In this universe, any opinions, other than those of firefighters, have no merit. I hate be the one to burst your community’s bubble, but that is no longer the case today.

    Fifty years ago firefighters did dangerous work fighting fires with lousy PPE. Today, after years of drinking the IAFF EMS Kool Aid, many departments like DC Fire, go to as many or more car accidents as fires and the majority of their runs are medical. Firefighters don’t die much when they’re giving oxygen and defibbing patients.

    Do firefighters die on the job? Sure, but most die of heart attacks and vehicle accidents. We all know there are firefighters with coronary disease fighting structure fires. Why? Because the IAFF insists on voluntary instead of mandatory medicals. Are you a hero when you die of a heart attack that could have been prevented? Is Jim (who commented on your recent Dallas TX Helmet Cam controversy) brave, when after refusing to wear his seatbelt, he gets thrown from an apparatus involved in an accident? When Jim says: “Man up people, we’re firemen not cowards.”, should his taxpayers shed a tear and pay out his LODD benefits anyway? There are plenty of real brave emergency service heroes out there. These examples, in my opinion, aren’t, but they all lumped together as of examples of “firefighter knows best”.

    Getting a more efficient and effective fire department is a problem not isolated to my local neighborhood, it’s a NA wide issue. Since many of my local firefighters read your blog and follow your Twitter feed, it makes sense that one way to influence opinion in the community (both local and at large) is by providing my taxpayers’ 2 cents worth here, that is if you are ok with it. It’s your call.