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UPDATED: DC Medic unit protecting President runs out of gas. Also, a scratch your head type PIO statement on staffing shortages.

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There are two stories on problems in the DC Fire & EMS Department that will probably lead you to ask “Really?”. The first one, in the video above from WJLA-TV/ABC 7 and printed below is about Medic 1. Medic 1 was on one of its regular assignments protecting the President of the United States and ran out of fuel while part of the official motorcade.

The second story from Peter Hermann at The Washington Post was about a paramedic shortage over the weekend which forced nine of 14 ALS units to be downgraded to BLS and five Paramedic Engine Companies to operate without medics. The PIO for the department blames too many people calling in sick and IAFF Local 36 points to the department’s failure to hire medics. But, to me, the real news in the story is this statement from the department’s spokesman:

“Trying to fill holes unexpectedly is never something you plan for,” said Timothy Wilson, spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

I know I haven’t been involved in providing fire or EMS services for a very long time, but I thought that’s exactly what you are supposed to plan for when dealing with the safety of the public. Maybe if this is now the guiding principal for the department’s operations we shouldn’t be surprised that Medic 1’s fuel tank was empty.

Jay Korf, WJLA-TV/ABC 7:

As President Obama travels to and from the White House in his motorcade, the number one concern is keeping him safe. A critical constant is a DC Fire and EMS ambulance, typically Medic 1, that trails behind in the event of a medical emergency.

But on August 8, as the President and First Lady were leaving the White House to celebrate Mr. Obama’s 52nd birthday at the restaurant Rasika in West End, Medic 1 ran out of gas.

Fire officials confirm that the vehicle was towed away and is now being repaired off-site. Fire officials say that as per policy, the crew should have but did not fill up the tank that day. Sources say the bigger issue is that the vehicle’s fuel gauge had been broken for months and not been repaired.

For months, D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells has been critical of the fire department for not quickly addressing a fleet in despair. He says all District residents, including those in the White House, deserve better:

“This is just an example that highlights the fact that we are not where we need to be.”

According to the official Press Pool report, the motorcade left the White House around 6:40 p.m. A fire department spokesperson says another ambulance, Medic 7, was dispatched and arrived at the White House at approximately 6:59 p.m. – nearly 20 minutes later.

But by then, the motorcade was long gone as the restaurant is only a couple of miles away.

What we also know according to a video is that when the motorcade left Rasika, Medic 7 was parked off to the left. Multiple sources familiar with protocol say since Medic 7 was not in the motorcade, it likely had not gone through a security sweep and therefore could not have been used by the president anyway if something had happened.

There are plenty of D.C. residents who can’t believe that something as simple as not fueling up could potentially jeopardize the First Family’s safety.

Matthew Cella, The Washington Times:

The sources said the operator of Medic 1 indicated that the fuel gauge was  broken and the driver was uncertain how much gas was in the vehicle. They also  said the operator previously documented the problem.

Mr. (Spokesman Timothy) Wilson said an internal investigation  is underway to determine whether the vehicle was properly fueled.

“To my knowledge, prior to this incident there was no report of any problem  with the fuel gauge,” he said. “If there was, no operator prior to this had  reported that.”

D.C. Firefighters Association President Ed  Smith confirmed the report and said it was also his understanding that the  ambulance operator blamed a faulty fuel gauge. He said the incident, coming on  the heels of a series of high-profile problems with the city’s ambulances, are  making the department a “national embarrassment.”

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Comments - Add Yours

  • http://www.rmesfire.org Jason Low

    How does a truck with a broken fuel gauge remain in service at all?

    • Anonymous

      you obviously havent been in the fire dept very long if you havent operated on a truck with a busted fuel gauge.

  • Dickey

    Why would the crew get their pee pee smacked if it was a gas gauge issue? Sounds fishy to me.

  • Dickey

    Also….why do the need a DCFD ambulance when they have the fully stocked presidential ambulance that is with him everywhere he goes? It’s the black, plain looking ambulance that is always about 4 vehicles behind the “beast.”

    When I was a deputy sheriff I saw this ambulance up close and even got a tour of it by the agent assigned when GW came to visit my town. This ambulance is armored, has a full ALS compliment of drugs with the addition of 6 units of his blood type, light surgical supplies and is airtight with it’s own CBRNE system. It has beefed up shocks, motor, alternator and tires too. It’s driven by a secret service agent with special EVOC training to get the hell out of dodge if needed.

  • A Nonny Mouse

    What Mark Baker said in the Facebook comments on this above about the protocol for these details. The unit is given an hour to prepare and be its best. This detail has been treated like a sweet gig for too long. It should be where the department sends its best. This isn’t the first time that one of the people assigned to Medic 1 has embarrassed the department in the last few years.

  • retired medic

    you are right about the Black ambulance. I think they have at least two of them. You can see it in the motorcade photo several vehicles ahead of e DCFD (excuse me, FEMS) ambulance.

  • DCFD Retired

    I agree with Mr Bakers commit. having ridden Medic 01 you are usually given 1 hr to prepare for a detail for the president, the means washing, cleaning, restocking supplies, and refueling the unit, but sometimes after running your butts off all day toward the end of your shift, a detail will occur were you are required to report directly to that detail without preparing for the event This is not the fisrt time, some time ago a unit broke down mechanical out on I-66 in Virginia during a presidental detail, I understand this was a fuel issue but I remember someone stating from the White House staff stating that the units from pass till present are not designed to keep up with the fast pace motion of a detail and yes there are units out there with fuel gauge issues, if this is a issue going to be a issue in the future, why not have the feds provide DC with a reliable unit to cover these details since the District cannot seem to get their act together when it comes to purchasing reliable apparatus yet these units do run 24/7

  • SrFireOfficial

    Having worked presidential detail immediately a week before my retirement, I believe the vehicle you are referring it is for CBRNE events only. It’s painted Secret Service black and the size of an ambulance. I was allowed to photograph it and have it in my archives somewhere.

  • j2brown

    @Dickey: Maybe the extra ambulance is for the rest of the entourage and/or a back-up (although not much of one in this case)?

    One more reason that as a driver I fill up when I can, not when I have to. Fortunately my mistakes haven’t yet made the news.

  • Anonymous

    The White House medical staff is provided by the military. Maybe its time to transfer the ambulance responsibility to them as well (the Navy already provides the on-site ambulances for the Capitol Building).

  • MichiganFF

    Sounds like we need to send Charlie LeDuff down to DC!

    • DCFD Retired

      AMEN

  • Anonymous

    While an internal investigation will determine when the rig was last fueled, how much time the crew actually had to prepare (on the road vs in quarters), when the broken fuel guage was reported, etc. LRB’s verdict is already in.

  • cw

    Dang………….Guess Obamacare already kicked in ….cw

  • Retired Chief

    LRB seems as insulated as E. Holder. He isn’t going anywhere.Incompetents protecting other incompetents.

    • Nat Turner diaries

      maybe thats why you retired and got da hell out of dodge

  • Jerry Starkey

    Having worked a few of these details in the past, the black armored ambulance is for the president/vice-president only. So is the staff assigned to that unit. The trailing ambulance from the fire service or local ambulance provider is for the crews on the detail or if there is an accident while motorcading through the area.

  • Anonymous

    When Reagan was shot, the ambulance in the motorcade transported Brady, not Reagan, but it does beg the question, how long could have Brady stood to wait for an ambulance?

    • CHAOS

      That ambu was available for Brady because when the SS got Reagan the hell out of Dodge it wasn’t known that he had been hit. That wasn’t realized until after they had split the scene, luckily for Mr. Brady.

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  • Big Mose

    Why does the fire department that protects our nation’s capitol run like it should be in a third world county?? This is Washington, DC. The fire service there should be the gold standard for the rest of the United States. Instead, it’s a third rate joke.

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