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Reporter ambushes DC’s Deputy Mayor & still can’t get answers on fire department fleet. Union believes ladders untested since 2009.

DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG

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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

Washington Post Editorial Board supports Chief Ellerbe’s EMS redeployment plan & shift change proposal 

Anyone who has heard my presentations knows my philosophy on ambush interviews of public officials by reporters. Because often they provide more theatrics than substance I tried to only use them when an official continuously refused to answer questions on important public issues. Apparently my friend Paul Wagner feels the same way. He has been trying since last week to get some answers from Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and Deputy Mayor Paul Quander about the state of the fleet of fire trucks protecting our Nation’s Capital. When neither man would respond to Paul Wagner’s requests for interviews he went in search of Paul Quander and found him.

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

The D.C. Fire Department admitted on Friday its ladder trucks had not been put through stress tests last year because there were no reserve trucks to take their place. An admission that came after FOX 5 aired a story with a claim by the firefighters union the annual testing hadn’t been done since 2009, risking the safety of firefighters as well as citizens.

The accepted protocol within most, if not all fire departments is that ladder trucks be stress tested annually because of the danger of collapse. It’s an industry standard.

On Friday the D.C. Fire Department admitted it had not tested the trucks last year and left the question of testing in 2011 and 2010 unanswered.

On Monday FOX 5 went to see the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety in hopes of getting some answers.

Paul Quander has so far ignored every single request for comment since the middle of last week.

At first we were told Quander was unavailable when he suddenly left the office and we tried to get some answers. The video reveals our exchange.

“Hey Mr. Quander can I talk to you about a couple of issues?

“(Quander) not right now I am going down to…(Wagner) “There are some serious issues about safety right now and you are the head of public safety in the city”.

“(Quander) as I said I can’t talk to you right now, I have a meeting I need to go to and you didn’t schedule anything”.

“(Wagner) But you ignore me sir, I email, I call, I’m looking for answers and you are not giving us answers, the fire department admitted Friday night Mr. Quander it didn’t have any reserve trucks last year and they are not testing these ladder trucks isn’t that a public safety issue? Isn’t that a public safety issue sir? You are the head of public safety, firefighters are possibly in danger who are climbing these ladders that haven’t been tested, how come you are ignoring me?

In the same press release from Friday the fire department said it had tested one truck on Monday March 11th.

“Well Paul it’s pretty disgusting because we had a firefighter fatality in 1999 on Cherry Road”, said Union President Ed Smith, “One of the recommendations in that report was to keep the reserve fleet ready and there was a truck out of service that night and there was a delay on the second truck responding, we had the same delay when four firefighters were hurt on 48th Place, so apparently we don’t ever learn our lesson and the city is putting everybody’s safety at risk”.

The after action report on the Cherry Road fire lists current Chief Kenneth Ellerbe as taking part in the report which recommends “the department maintain an adequate reserve fleet”.

Last year in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania an aerial ladder collapsed while fighting a blaze at an auto repair shop, seriously injuring one firefighter.

Later this week, perhaps by Wednesday, the city will announce the outcome of an investigation into why there were no ambulances to take an injured D.C. Police officer to the hospital in a hit and run crash March 5th.

One other note, City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said today he still has confidence in Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe but he needs to put the EMS transport problems and fleet maintenance issues behind him.

Mendelson says it’s unacceptable for a stroke victim to be taken to the hospital in a fire engine and if it’s best practice to stress test ladder trucks? Get it done.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Mr. NFPA

    Have any ladders been tested…..

    All ladders are supposed to be tested annually. They need to check on ground ladders also. This is a HUGE deal!!! I bet if aerial and ground ladders were tested, 40% minimum would fail.


    The following excerpt from NFPA 1932 Chapter 7 provides guidance regarding when ground ladders should be tested.

    NFPA 1932 Chapter 7

    Service Testing of Ground Ladders

    7.1 Requirements for All Ground Ladders

    7.1.6 All ground ladders shall be service tested on the following schedule:

    1. Before the ladder is placed in service for the first time

    2. At least annually

    3. At any time a ladder is suspected of being unsafe

    4. After the ladder has been subjected to overloading (see Table

    5. After the ladder has been subjected to impact loading or unusual conditions of use

    6. Whenever the ladder has been exposed or is suspected of having been exposed to direct flame contact

    7. Whenever the heat sensor label has changed to indicate heat exposure

    8. After any repairs have been completed, unless the only repair was replacing the halyard

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Mr. NFPA,
    Haven’t you heard? DC is going back to the GLORY DAYS of the mighty 80’s! Yep, DC is gonna do what it wants and lose it all in the courts, it’s just how we roll. It’s much more efficient for the taxpayers too!

  • Wilson Says

    Sir, you can run but you can’t hide. Nothing good will come from “Dodging” this, time to stand up and tell the truth. Phil… Seriously, you are sporting the company tag line too?? How in the wide world can you honestly say you have confiendence in LRB? Quit drinking the Kool Aid and start the process to fix this, you know what needs to happen here. Come On Man!!!

  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    I have complete confidence that chairman phil and the rest of his lame duck city council will not even attempt to straighten this mess out. After all, they’re the ones who rubber stamped their approval for the mr. e traveling clown show, can’t admit we made a HUGE mistake. March 28 should be pure, unadulterated entertainment. More Kool Aid for everyone!

  • watchdogdc

    It’s time for Chief Ellerbe and Paul Quander to be removed from their position it’s becoming more and more obvious these two individuals are on a coures together that has cost one citizen (Mr.Ford)his life and caused a stroke victim to be transported in a fire truck which is not equipped for such action then there was the injured police officer that layed on the ground with seroiys injuries waiting for a transport unit from a neighboring jurisdiction. Obviously the political body in the District of Columbia does not care all of this is happening. There are the lives of the citizens being put at risk there are the lives of the Fire and Ems Employees who serve those citizens being put at risk. It’s time for the Citizens, the Labor Unions both local and internationl to go to capital hill and demand congress intervene. Where is Mrs. Holmes Norton lets see what her view is on this matter. This is boarderline criminal neglect on the part of the Mayor,The City Council, The Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and the Fire Chief. They should all be held accountable for their part in the activity that is taking place.

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  • haveyouseenmybaseball?

    Hahaha Ms. Holmes Norton, she’s the one who years ago called the DC Fire Department one of the great “feather bed fire departments of the country.” She also said she also said she was familiar with fire department operations because her grandfather was a Firefighter.