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Your DC update: Chief Ellerbe gets rid of another dep. chief in charge of apparatus maintenance. Council member reacts to paramedic’s letter.


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Previous coverage of letter to City Council

Here is the latest news coverage on the continuing problems within the DC Fire & EMS Department. In the video above, WTTG-TV/Fox 5 reporter Paul Wagner talks with DC Council member Tommy Wells about the letter from Firefighter/Paramedic Jon Botwin on the paramedic staffing shortages Botwin believes impacted care for a little girl who died.

The article below is about Chief Kenneth Ellerbe again making a change in leadership at apparatus maintenance. You may recall earlier this year Deputy Chief John Donnelly was brought in after Chief Ellerbe pushed out Deputy Chief Wayne Branch, blaming Branch for wrong information given to the City Council and a large amount of overtime being spent at the shop. Donnelly quickly became the face of the problems at the shop, talking with reporters as new problems were discovered. Donnelly has been transferred out of the shop and busted back to battalion chief.

According to Andrea Noble at The Washington Times, Donnelly’s problems are related to those street signs being used as heat shields to repair ambulances.  The article says Donnelly failed to let Ellerbe know about the problem in a timely manner after Donnelly received an email from the firefighters’ union pointing out the issue. Here are some excerpts from Noble’s article:

“Every member of [the fire department] is  held to a standard of performance, and those standards are universal,” Mr.  Quander said in a statement. “When situations arise where those standards  are not met, our staff is held accountable. And that happens whether they are  rank and file or management.”

“How many times can they wash out a deputy chief at the apparatus division before the fire chief takes accountability?” union President Ed Smith said. “I don’t know what he’s being accused of to warrant the demotion, but as far as I know John Donnelly has had a spotless career.”

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, who heads the committee that oversees the fire department, said he wouldn’t wade into personnel decisions made within the agency but praised Chief Donnelly’s handling of the massive four-alarm fire that destroyed Frager’s Hardware on Capitol Hill in June.

“I just really admired the way he managed the whole thing,” Mr. Wells said of Chief Donnelly, who served as acting chief in Chief Ellerbe’s absence.

Read entire article

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Dallas

    I have worked with John on regional projects in the past and he is one of the most competent people I have ever worked with in the fire service. When he got assigned to apparatus maintenance it was obvious that he was taking on a herculean task that would take many months, if not years, to get on the right track. My thought at the time was that if anyone could help sort the mess out John would be the one to have the skills to do it.

    The fact that he has been relieved after just a few months just goes to further highlight Ellerbe’s rank incompetence. The mess didn’t get made overnight and it isn’t going to get fixed overnight and whipsawing managers in and out of the position is just going to add the chaos not calm it; any ‘manager’ that doesn’t understand this basic fact is not a manager. You appoint a good person and give him/her the time and resources to address the problems. If you don’t expect that there will be problems when untangling and epic mess like the DC FEMS apparatus division along the way you are clueless.

    When I saw that John had been replaced in the initial report about the letter to the council I actually thought his removal was much more significant than the letter; the letter highlights real and continuing problems but John’s removal will probably cause the apparatus situation actually degrade further in all likelihood.

    I don’t know how deep the bench is but in terms of skills I am not sure who is going to get things turned around if John couldn’t because he is among the best. John got the shaft and it just reinforces how clueless Ellerbe and Quander are.

    One can only hope that the voters in DC will ultimately hold Gray accountable for his continuing support of the amateur hour fire department management (that is if the Feds don’t charge him for his election shenanigans first).


  • Dirk Diggler

    Funny, it appears that our Department Head – (Not A Chief) continues to remove/transfer people from duty. BUT, nothing ever improves!!! So, someone with an IQ of a ROCK, should question. What is the common DENOMINATOR in this EQUATION?

    Of course, our leaders or at least some of them, may have an IQ less than a ROCK…

  • JustSayin’



    Maybe this is not a sage from the DC (Comic Book) “Souperman”.

    It might be closer to Alice in Wonderland.

    The RED QUEEN leadership style in action.?????

  • The Dozen

    i never really post but i just can’t take the crap no longer Mr.Quander this what you said in your statement sir “Every member of [the fire department] is held to a standard of performance, and those standards are universal,” Mr. Quander said in a statement. “When situations arise where those standards are not met, our staff is held accountable. And that happens whether they are rank and file or management.”

    So now i ask you why hasen’t Ellerbe been disciplined i was always under the impression the the leader at the top all ways took the hit for his troops sounds like this guy doesn’t Mr. Quander what goes around comes around for you and ellerbe KARMA will come back on you good luck to you both in holding your office after elections!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    This is just another example of how asinine this fire chief is. How do you get rid of a chief who you put in the position, was making process in the position and never tossed you under the bus in any interview he was apart of. Anybody with crossed bugles should be very very nervous.

  • Anonymous

    Reportedly spotless career record…

    Covers as Acting Chief….

    Manages 4-alarm fire “admirably”


    Someone had to be blamed.

  • Anonymous

    “How many times can they wash out a deputy chief at the apparatus division before the fire chief takes accountability?”

    Curious as to what type of accountability the fire chief is supposed to take?

    • Anonymous

      The fire chief failure to properly manage is the problem! He’s the reason the fleet is in a state of disrepair!! He should have been fired!!

      • Anonymous

        Failure to manage Fleet Maintenance? That’s the DFC-FM’s job. If the Fire Chief has to do his job…..he doesn’t need him.

        If the DFC was informed of improper repair of the apparatus, both internally and externally, then he should have acted on it.

  • Joe

    Donnelly is a solid chief who was put in an impossible situation. He’s being railroaded.

  • Jason Batz

    I love Jon Botwin


    even management will be held accountable….well except for Kenneth “Bulletproof” Ellerbe…to this very day…we’ve still yet to be disciplined for this

    • Anonymous

      Another horse that’s D-E-A-D!!!

      • Puff Puff Give

        Well, actually, it looks like Ellerbe might have blown some life back into it…

  • Anonymous

    Did you know that wethepeople is the Official site for petitions to the White House and if any get over 100,000 signatures the White House must issue a statement on the subject.
    It’s seems to me there should be no issue of getting 100,000 signatures in support of DCFD and its members. If not in the immediate dismissal of K ellerbe, the very least a federal investigation into the harassment of employees, retaliatory actions, mismanagement of funds, apparatus and staffing.
    There are over 1 million firefighters in the United States alone, only need 1 out of 10 to sign the petition. Add in family members, our other brothers and sisters in the armed forces and police departments, There should be no problem getting the necessary amount. Haven’t even taken into consideration the ease at which this could be publicized through social media and fire department websites and blogs.
    At the very least this sends a clear message how united we are and what a disgrace he is.

    • Mark too

      Where do I sign?

  • Anonymous

    “Round up the usual suspects.”
    Hey, what ever happened to MPD’s “investigation” into the ambo fires?

  • Bugle

    Bugle says.

    Chief Ellerbie used to be a friend, but I believe the insanity has gone way too far. Using Chief Donnelly as the fall guy is way over the top. He is one of the most competent as well as loyal chief officers within the Department.
    Maybe it is time for the Appropriations Committee of Congress to investigate the top management of DCFEMS. Homeland Security and the general welfare of the citizens of the District as well as those who work in a great city may be in peril if a disastrous event were to occur. Back in the day when Kenny Cox worked the beat on Capitol Hill this foolishness of inept management would not go unchecked.

  • A concerned taxpayer

    Jon Botwin was placed on AL this afternoon.

    • JustSayin’

      Experienced FF/PM Jon is frustrated and heartbroken because the appropriate
      PM Engine and RA had been downgraded to BLS. A beautiful little girl was in SCA.

      ACLS assistance severely was delayed…
      NOT that the BLS Crew did not respond appropriately.. But they are just BLS.

      So, in the interest of ATTEMPTING to improve the FD protection for the DC Residents,
      he, a CITIZEN of DC, wrote a letter.

      After several days of serious contemplation, Souperman makes a decision.
      His action you ask.???

      He takes FF/PM Jon OFF his assigned Engine so that is downgraded to BLS.

      I hope no other humans suffered for this decision….

  • A Nonny Mouse

    John Donnelly is smart, educated and conscientious.

  • Anonymous

    When is the Mayor going to hold the Chief to the same “standards” as he holds his management team? Donnelly was set up, I said it from day one.

    Hopefully, the end is near.

  • DC Truck

    LRB is afraid of Donnelly. John is extremely well educated, experienced and competent. He is liked by many in the Council, not just Wells. He is also a city resident. As such, he is a threat to LRB. They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. So, what better way to keep him closer than to demote him and assign him to a position that just happens to be located in the same building/office as he is!!!

  • ukfbbuff

    Gee, from reading the newspaper article and considering my own fire services with similar type people like Ellerbe, he belongs to a special group of:

    Less than reputable Chief Officers (real “Dirt bags” as I would call them after 40 years)

    that somehow are allowed to run amok, with their supervisors approval until, they end up in Court and a Judge tells them “No More” and pay $ Many, many Dollars to the victims harassed.

    They may end out in court more than once till its realized that they are a financial problem and the get forced out.


    Don’t feel to sorry for Chief Donnelly. He was looking out for # 1 and stepped in # 2. He has done more than his share of behind the scenes dirty work for the Chief. He is another Chief that is a casualty of this administration. He lost his moral compass and his balls. He was a great officer and firemen who sold his soul and is now paying for it. Don’t get me wrong, what Ellerbe did is beyond wrong, but Chief Donnelly rose to the height he fell from by stepping on others along the way. The lesson here is before you get in bed with someone, make sure they are not going to poke you up the A@@

  • Anonymous

    Donnelly was an administrator – not fireman not a chief not a company comander. Never in charge of a fire engine/truck or crew.

  • Mobella

    “Every member of [the fire department] is held to a standard of performance, and those standards are universal,” Mr. Quander said in a statement. “When situations arise where those standards are not met, our staff is held accountable. And that happens whether they are rank and file or management.”


  • It must be christmas

    Chief Ellerbe for Mayor