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Navy Yard rampage update: TV station questions DC paramedic staffing. Efforts of U.S. Park Police crew highlighted.

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Previous coverage of Navy Yard shootings

More on US Park Police crew from

There are some follow-up stories in the local press that focus on emergency operations during Monday’s shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard. The story above from is about the work of the United States Park Police Eagle helicopter crew that handled both EMS and law enforcement roles. You can read more from reporter Kristin Fisher here.

Below, reporter Ken Molestina questions the readiness of the DC Fire & EMS Department. Specifically Molestina looks at the staffing on Monday and the downgrading of nine ALS units to BLS due to a paramedic shortage. Here is what Molestina discovered:

The DC firefighters Union tells WUSA 9 that a total of 9 emergency response units were downgraded from advanced life support status to basic life support during the Navy Yard shooting.

In others words there was no paramedic on board those units. That means the personnel on board could only provide minimal emergency care on the scene.

Medic units 7,8, 27, 30, 19, 24, 31 were all downgraded. Paramedic engines 20, 31were also downgraded and didn’t have a paramedic on board.

It’s unclear how many of those units responded to the scene of the massacre. DC Fire & EMS didn’t return any of WUSA 9’s phone calls or e-mails.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • anonymous

    They might also question why medic units were dispatched on omega, alpha, and bravo calls while the incident was ongoing. I know Ellerbe is on the war path about making sure a unit gets to every call within 8 minutes, but the district would be far better assigning the APPROPRIATE resources according to nationally recognized EMD guidelines. (Omega, Alpha, and Bravo calls are for “non-life threatening” situations and require only BLS units be sent, while Charlie, Delta, and Echo are considered “potentially life threatening and require Advanced Life Support be sent).

    I know for a fact that while the incident was ongoing I heard Medic 5 assigned to an Omega (lowest priority possible) sickness, supposedly to meed the department’s self imposed 8 minute rule. Sure enough, when the incident commander requested more ALS units a few minutes later, OUC advised them that no ALS transport units were available.

    • MillerWatch

      Bravo calls are “hot” BLS, Charlie’s are “cold” ALS. Bravos deserve immediate nearby BLS response. Charlies can wait for distant ALS.

      • Anonymous

        Not sure what system you work in but Alpha and Bravo calls are low acuity/BLS non emergent. Delta and Echo calls are life threatening ALS immediate response. There are common place EMD codes.

        “Alpha Response–Non-life threatening, low priority. All units respond non-emergency.
        Bravo Response–Non-life threatening, but a little more serious. First Responders respond lights and siren, Medic Unit responds non-emergency
        Charlie Response–Potentially life threatening. All units respond emergency.
        Delta Response–Life threatening. All units respond emergency.
        Echo Response–Circling the drain. All units respond emergency.
        Omega Response–Interfacility Transfer, non-emergency.
        Omega-Delta Response–Interfacility Transfer, emergency.
        Reply With Quote”

    • stuart

      I would suspect that no decision to hold calls could be implemented at that moment without a pre-determined plan for such a thing….which means they’ve never planned for that. Which is another crazy thing considering the city we’re talking about.

  • Snarff

    I figured after this shooting somthing about their staffing or paramedics or lack of, would be called into question.

    Washington D.C. our nations capitol is too big and far to important to have a sub par fire EMS system. In this era of terrorism its not a matter of “if” but “when” will their be a terrorist attack in DC It may not be a huge scale attack like 9/11. It may be something like the Boston bombings, But its going to happen and the Fire EMS dept of DC should be staffed adequately and prepared for such events.

    We are not talking about Albuquerque New Mexico here. This is Washington DC the capital of the United States. Its a huge target for terrorist. So far the DC FEMS has played Russian roulette with their staffing and unpreparedness. It will come back and bite them, and the sad thing is civilians will pay the price for their ineptness.

  • Anonymous

    The comments above speak the Truth and needs of DC Fire and EMS
    to ensure the Citizens of Proper ALS Intervention is ready at all times. The terrible Tragedy at the Navy Yard is something that as in all 911 emergencies is unforeseen. The fact that EMS Response units were downgraded from ALS providers to BLS providers speaks volumes as the reasons for some long overdue
    changes and reforms in the DC Fire and EMS System. The one issue to be considered is any upgrade/changes must be the work and total efforts of an Outside Independent Group of Fire and EMS Professionals. The current status of ALS/BLS by Ellerbee has apparently proved to be stagnated and blocked by opinions
    and a false sense of what is needed, and how,why,when,who should set Policies and Objectives to get the DC Fire and EMS
    Delivery System on track to function as it is supposed to do.
    (1) Paramedic shortage/Staffing
    (2) Placing the ALS providers in a strategic location to serve
    a greater section of Citizens within each Battalion.

    (3) To accomplish the above Objectives the most critical issue
    to be first and foremost is “Response Times”

    (4) These issues are and must be considered a Top Priority
    since the District of Columbia is a Federal City. Events
    such as the Navy Yard Shootings, the pentagon Terrorist
    Attack are an absolute necessity for everyone to be aware.


    I already know the possible exuses, answers and justifications for this story..rght now Gray, DM Knitwit & Chief Twit are in the war room now discussing the potential misleading reasons. Here’s my replica of David Letterman’s top 10…
    10. We’re currently hiring
    9. Medics planned a sickout
    8. Its not our fault
    7, The department is being managed well
    6. We have new medic units on order for nobody to staff
    5. They took unscheduled leave
    4. Were at the turning point and not looking back
    3. Its Bush’s fault
    2. The medical director was very brave, heroic and CALM duing the incident
    1. We can’t recruit new medics because our requirements are to demanding

  • Met Fan

    Did they recall anyone or bring mutual aid in due to the ongoing incident?

    • anonymous

      They did receive mutual aid from a number of jurisdictions.

      There was no call back. A number of people, myself included, called in to various places to see if we were needed and were told no.

      A call back would have done little to begin with, given the lack of apparatus to ride. I know of 1 additional engine company that was placed in service from the training academy and ready around 1030 or 11. I also know additional EMS transport units, were placed in service, including I believe 1 ALS unit, but none were ready to hit the streets and respond to runs until at least 1300, over 4.5 hours after the incident began, and as units were beginning to be released from the incident anyway. (Numbers and times approximate based on what I remember from listening to radio traffic during the incident). A large reason for the small number and long wait from deployment is the fact that in addition to our well know ambulance issues, the rest of the apparatus is in a sorry state as well, with a vast majority of the “ready reserve” units that are supposed to be ready to go in service as soon as a crew shows up to staff it (both fire and EMS) are currently deployed as front line units due to the number of companies whose front line pieces are and have been out of service for a lengthy time.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know about recall, but from what I gathered from various media reports, scanner feeds, etc.:

      Naval District of Washington fire and medic units were obviously involved.

      PG County sent 3 paramedic units and at least one command vehicle to the staging area on scene.

      PG and Montgomery FDs backfilled some stations.

      GWU’s student-run EMS took calls outside of Foggy Bottom.

      MD State Police sent 2 medevacs to the scene and they staged on the 11th St. Bridge.

      Fairfax County PD’s medevac helicopter was called for, I don’t know if it was needed or utilized.

      The plan for trauma patients was to utilize GW, Medstar, Howard, and PG Hospital, so while not true mutual aid, an out of state hospital was involved in the response. I know that GW and Medstar both received critical patients (GW’s died en route).

      PGFD’s Twitter mentioned that, at least on their end, there were no radio or other interoperability problems on scene.

      • bill

        No radio problems, other than not being able to understand what the dispatcher was saying.

        • Mark

          Have you ever been able to understand what they are saying?
          Half the time I don’t think they know what they are saying!!

        • Greg R

          NDW experiences radio problems on a good day. Monday was no different. Here is a 2011 story on the problems. Note that the Naval Academy and the Navy Yard is the same department using the same radios

  • Jim

    Does DC have ALS engines? How many? Would they be better suited to take the paramedics off the engines and put them on the ambulances? How many fire runs does DC get a year? How many EMS runs do they get a year?

    • Mark too

      DC does have some ALS engines. Not sure how many, but I get the impression that there aren’t a lot of them, possibly less than 10.

      From my understanding of their types of calls and volume, they lean heavily to the BLS side. As such, with limited ALS resources available, running BLS transport units with ALS chaser units will typically prevent those ALS resources from being tied up on BLS transport calls and thus be available more often for actual ALS calls.

      Now, it’s debatable as to whether or not deploying ALS engines as the chaser units is more efficient/cost effective than deploying the engine medics in a response unit (SUV type vehicle) and then filling their spot on the engine with another FF.

  • Pipeman27

    We are, by far, completely understaffed, under equipped, and unprepared to handle a large scale incident.


    Not the first time Eagle 1 has performed well under pressure at a major incident in DC. Well done.

    Now, Kenneth, your plan for day-to-day operations of your FEMS has had its weaknesses exposed under the glaring light of national media coverage.
    Or, is being drastically short on EMS resources for an incident that quite easily could have required more ALS transports a strong point?
    Or, is having your hand-picked Medical Director sounding like a buffoon during the incident a strong point?
    Or, is having to depend on mutual aid in our nation’s capital a strong point?

    Smooth as silk, LRB, smooth as silk.

    • Anonymous

      Quote: Not the first time Eagle 1 has performed well under pressure at a major incident in DC. Well done.

      Think 14th Street Bridge. Audio is here, if anyone’s interested:

  • the ear

    They got mutual aid from Arlington and PG that I know about but still the same mismanagement.
    Noticed on Gray’s press conference he was in the back.I wonder if Gray put a “shocker” collar on him so hewould not say anything to get into trouble yet again.

  • Anonymous

    In response to some comments.

    (1) Yes DC Fire and EMS did call in Mutual Aid.
    ie; MCFRS Transferred A710 and A711 to Engine Co.14
    A702 Transferred to Engine Co.24

    PGFD Sent A829 and I believe A842 on Mutual Aid

    (2) As far as Paramedic Engines, this is a good thing to
    employ with an overwhelming EMS both ALS/BLS calls always
    on a rapid succession fast paced Incident Activity. By
    having Paramedic Engines the potential to have ALS
    providers readily available to ensure a reasonable
    response time. With EMS response Units always on the road
    with PE they can upgrade a BLS unit without any loss
    waiting response times. Now the location of Paramedic
    Engines must be postioned at respective Stations within
    each Battalion. Paramedic Engines are in place in any
    number of Large Urban Cities and Metropolitan
    Jurisdictions. pre Hospital ALS Intervention with quick
    Life sustaining Response Times is another issue of
    Progress in the 21st Century Fire and EMS Delivery System.

    • BH

      1) Please show your peer-reviewed, journal-published research showing that ALS non-transport first response vehicles improve patient outcomes.

      2) The answer to not enough ambulances is not fire trucks with personnel meant for ambulances.

      • Mark too

        1) He did not state directly or infer that “ALS non-transport first response vehicles improve patient outcomes. The point he was making, although not with full clarity, was the same point I made above.

        DC’s EMS responses end up being predominately BLS issues. When you have a large volume of BLS calls and limited ALS resources, deploying those limited resources exclusively on ambulances is not the most effective way to maintain the availability of that resource (ALS) for when it’s needed.

        As was pointed out, if the call is ALS, then the paramedic from the engine can transport with the BLS ambulance crew. If it isn’t, the BLS ambulance can handle the call and that paramedic is now available for the next call significantly sooner than if he’d been assigned to the ambulance transporting a BLS patient.

        2) If you have been paying attention to this ongoing situation, then you’d know that the issue in DC isn’t really that of not having enough ambulances, aside from the times in which they don’t have enough serviceable ambulances for the crews on-duty. The issue is the fact that some units (engines and ambulances) that are supposed to be ALS units are downgraded to BLS units every day because the department is not staffing all of its paramedic positions with paramedics.

        BTW, ALS first response units do improve outcomes for specific patients, even if the data shows no improved outcome for most patients overall.

        • BH

          <.The issue is the fact that some units (engines and ambulances) that are supposed to be ALS units are downgraded to BLS units every day because the department is not staffing all of its paramedic positions with paramedics.

          I know what “the issue” is. My overall point is that the struggle to keep the engines ALS is a solution in search of a problem. Dispense with the fallacy that paramedic engines are a cost-effective, medically-justified method of providing patient care, and now you have more ALS personnel to staff vehicles that can actually solve the problem (ALS patients needing to get from point A to point B).

          The BLS ambulances that are required for the majority of the system’s burden, as you point out, should not be taken out of that rotation for ALS patients unless the hospital is closer than the ALS. BLS ambulances transporting ALS patients does not help the system- it retards the system and creates a cascading effect of unavailable units.

          DC has it half right with a tiered ALS/BLS system- the EMS systems consistently mentioned as the top tier in the country, Seattle and Boston, use just such a model. DC just need to take that idea to it’s logical conclusion instead of it’s current illogical state.

          BTW, ALS first response units do improve outcomes for specific patients, even if the data shows no improved outcome for most patients overall.

          Such as…. whom? What’s the evidence?

          • Mark too

            OK, so you know what “the issue” is, but you appear not to understand it or why it exists.

            The paramedic staffing problem that DC is having has little to do with the choice to staff paramedic engines. As has been repeatedly pointed out, the problem exists because the department is losing paramedics due to the poor working conditions that seem to only be getting worse coupled with the fact that the department has failed to actually hire new paramedics for 2+ years. Additionally, they have pretty much self-imposed restrictions regarding overtime that prevents getting more of the positions filled each day.

            Have you heard of any other Fire/EMS agencies in that region or for that matter nationwide (particularly the ones running ALS fire apparatus) suffering this consistent and severe of a “paramedic shortage”? I haven’t.

            Nobody is making any sort of claim regarding ALS engines being “cost-effective, medically-justified” except for you since that’s not the issue in debate in DC.

            Your assessment of BLS units transporting ALS patients is misguided. If no ALS transport units are available, then transporting the patient in a BLS unit (with or without a paramedic off an engine) rather than holding the call for an ALS unit to become available relieves the cascading effect that you mention.

            Yes, Seattle and Boston have tiered EMS systems that are highly regarded, however there are also all ALS systems that are high performing. The main thing DC needs to do is to staff their paramedic units with paramedics.

            As for your questions regarding ALS first response improving outcomes for specific patients……

            Well, as you should know, anything I would have first hand knowledge of I can’t tell you about in the manner that you appear to be asking due to the privacy laws. Anything I could tell you otherwise, would likely be unverifiable for the same reasons.

            Regardless, for someone spouting off about published research based evidence, I would think that you’d understand that in any sort of medical research regarding the treatment of patients would know that you pretty much never have a 100% result one way or the other. Even if you did the research and found that ALS first response did not improve patient outcomes in 99% of the cases, that still leaves 1% in which it did and I’m sure those patients and their families are very grateful for that ALS first response unit! That was the heart of the point that I was making with that statement.

          • BH

            I’m aware of the staffing issue, and I believe that I suggested a solution- stop trying to prop up the PEC system. ALS ambulances should get top billing in the hierarchy of what paramedic goes where when staffing is low. I know that will create a lot of butthurt FF/PMs who only got their patch to get on a fire department and ride an engine, but they knew they were joining a combined department.

            Well, as you should know, anything I would have first hand knowledge of I can’t tell you about in the manner that you appear to be asking due to the privacy laws.

            Don’t be stupid; I wasn’t asking for names for christ’s sake. I wasn’t even asking for anecdotes. I was asking for categories/types of patients, as I assumed that’s what you meant

            Even if you did the research and found that ALS first response did not improve patient outcomes in 99% of the cases, that still leaves 1% in which it did and I’m sure those patients and their families are very grateful for that ALS first response unit!

            So you design the entire system around 1% or less of it’s patients? That’s rich. Meanwhile your motorcycle officers spend 20 minutes lying in the street after a crash. But hey, at least we have ALS engines!

          • Mark too

            You may be aware of the staffing issue, but as I stated, you appear to not understand it or why it exists. Your suggestion is not a solution to the actual problem nor would it definitively make the current situation better. As has been explained, the actual problem is the current fire chief’s lack of hiring new paramedics, the existing ones leaving due to poor working conditions and the overtime restrictions preventing some positions to be filled each day.

            If you were merely asking for category/types of patients, then you should have asked the question better. The question “Such as….whom?” implies the answer sought is a person, not a category. The follow up question “What’s the evidence?” implies the answer sought is detailed information that can be verified.

            To answer your revised question, I wasn’t specifically referring to any specific type/category of patient. It was more of a generalized statement that some patients do actually benefit from early ALS care.

            Having paramedic engines does not mean that the system is being designed around 1% of patients. As has been stated, the issue in DC has nothing to do with the efficacy of ALS first response, nor the cost of operating the units. It’s a product of failed leadership, not system design.

            As for your snide comments regarding the motorcycle cop incident, you should probably do your homework before you “speak”. According to easily verifiable information from multiple sources, when the accident occurred, no ambulances were “available” to respond. Ten ambulances of the 39 on-duty were “out of service” at the time. Most for legitimate reasons, like mechanical issues with their unit. I believe that there were 3 units that possibly should have been “in service” and therefore available for that call. However, a paramedic engine company was available and was on scene within 8 minutes. So, as you can see, the injured officer had access to ALS care within 8 minutes (not insinuating that “improved” his outcome) and the unavailability of a DCFD ambulance for transport had nothing to do with what unit its paramedic were assigned to.

  • Name withheld to protect from NSA snooping

    It would be better to have an extra man on a Medic Engine vs a transport unit. That way, if they were dispatched to a C/D/E which turned out to be A/B/O, they could stay on the Engine and STAY IN SERVICE while the transport unit brought the other person to the hospital. It’s a system in place in many of the more rural areas that actually works. ALS care can be provided while waiting for a transport unit, it actually works!

    • Mark too

      Nobody is talking about using an “extra man” on either unit.

      The discussion is about not having paramedics on units that are supposed to have paramedics on them and the impact that has on being able to deliver timely ALS care to those in need of it.

  • That Guy

    1- No Recall, Callback or ‘Immobilization’ was implemented. Highly doubt that would have been effective time wise. DC Has tons of resources, just not Advanced Life Support Resources.

    2- DC is suppose to have 14 ALS Transport units (Medic Units) and 21 Paramedic Engines (PECS). Nearly 80% of DC’s calls are BLS, therefor the PEC shows up and 80% of the time determines the patient is BLS and the PEC continues to provide ALS care for their respective area’s….. This system is severely flawed for a number of reasons from Dispatching to Lack of Paramedics (not enough time in the day to discuss this)

    3- As HOOKMAN stated, this will all become a blame game and situation filled with excuses from upper management.

  • Jeff

    Response to Met Fan:
    I was listening to Montgomery Fire (as well as other jurisdictions and agencies) during the incident. Montgomery transferred I think five or six ambulances and/or medic units into DC fire stations.

  • A concerned taxpayer

    if you listen to the audio that Dave posted earlier, FC says that he had 20 medics responding from the academy. If that is true, then we have a mis-allocation of resources. This just shows that despite this being the nation’s capitol, dumbness always will find a way to get elected or selected to a leadership role. Shameful that once again we have to rely on mutual aid while there is a four hundred million dollar surplus. Until more folks are hired, I suggest using some of that money to enter into a short term contract with AMR, LifeStar or any private company to drastically increase the number of medics providing ALS to the city.

    • Retired DCFD

      Concern Tax Payer: I believe the 20 medics deployed from the academy are the medics still in training along with a few qualified staff members

  • Volunteer for life

    Idk nothing about DC except that chief couldn’t run a 1 car parade in downtown no where usa.

  • puzzled

    Rule #1: People Die
    Rule #2: Paramedics can’t change Rule #1.

    While it is obvious that there is a need for more Paramedics in DC, I’m not sure the downgraded units would have affected the outcome of this incident. ANY service can be stretched beyond their resources on a large mass casuality incident. Thats where mutual aid comes in. What I have read and seen, that happened. Other calls continue to come in which need to be handled, so it might be necessary to withold some of these resources.

    Now for the old school. What would be the standard treatment for a GSW to an extremity? Bleeding control and immobilization. How is a Paramedic going to control this bleeding? Direct pressure and splinting, (a basic skill). What is the treatment for a GSW to the chest or abdomen? Surgery, which Paramedics cannot do. So most of the “Life Saving” interventions would still be Basic Life Support. All of the “Samurai Medicine” Paramedics can do, will not change the rules above.

    • anonymous

      While I agree with you 100%, please note that among other ridiculous things like requiring a paramedic to transport every time a BLS provider gives a BLS drug, DC protocols currently require a paramedic to transport every priority 1 patient and any patient which requires notification to the receiving hospital. So, regardless of the fact that trauma should be a BLS skill, our medics are still required to transport any trauma proximal to the elbow or knee.

      • BH

        Get a medical director who’s not an idiot. Problem 90% solved.

        All the paramedics in the world can’t fix a systemic issue like that!

    • In fear of retaliation

      GSW to the chest? Well…needle decompression is a skill that often times needs to be done promptly…and that’s something a paramedic can do. Not to mention that medics are also used in DC to unscrew what others have screwed.


    Puzzled…while your comment..”I’m not sure the downgraded units would have affected the outcome of this incident” is true, however, that’s after the fact….It’s like Russian Roulette to a degree…this is almost like…whew…we skated by on this one…though we can’t save everyone with a Paramedic, it still ensures that a patient has a chance of survival if something such as intubating a patient was all that was needed to keep him breathing till they got to the hospital……..

    What if this incident were much greater and victims poured out of the gates with life threatening injuries…sure the quicker they get to the hospital..the quicker chance they might have at saving them, but a paramedic onscene could in fact make a difference from the time they come in contact with the patient and to the time they arrive at the hospital…

    There’s no justification for this that or the other…this is the Nations Capital…funding is not an issue…this will not be the last major incident, so the need to have medics is a must…everyday there should be extra medics and never a shortage…downgrading medic units to downgrading fire engines and ladder trucks to staff ambulances is a result of the inept and incompetent people in charge of this department…we over hired firefighters for the purpose of training and to staff ambulances, so what’s the problem with not hiring more medics..

  • Ron Few

    Why does your union allow the downgrading of units? Every other department in the COG region force holds its employees on overtime instead of placing units OOS or downgrading them. Bring back the Rube!

    • dave statter

      For the record The Rube did downgrades. Just not as many.

    • anonymous

      I wouldn’t say that the union “allows” it. In fact the union has been one of the most vocal opponents of downgrading units, as well as many other staffing issues. However, as we know, the union can oppose it all it wants, but cannot set policy. It is the Fire Chief who makes the decisions, regardless of how the union feels.

      That said, the department DOES force firefighters, and especially firefighter paramedics to work continuation of duty shifts (an additional 12 hours after their regular 24) on a daily basis, however due to the overtime limitation act, firefighters are allowed to work only 36 hours of overtime in an FLSA cycle. Once an employee reaches their 36 hour cap they can no longer be held over. This goes to show the seriousness of the staffing issues we face when the department cant even FORCE enough overtime on its employees to fill coverage gaps.

      One solution would be to force single role providers to work continuation of duty shifts as well, especially since the majority of the daily downgrades occur on the ALS transport units they are responsible for staffing, however that would be in violation of their contract, and given their 2/2/4 schedule would not really be practical. (Not to mention that unlike firefighters and firefighter medics, they would be able to simply go home or call in sick for up to 3 days in a row without being required to report to the clinic if they felt tired from working more than 12 consecutive hours)

  • I Solve Problems

    #1 Fire Ellerbe
    #2 Create a Fire-Rescue Board. Fill it with council appointees.
    #3 Take the FD from under the crony Mayor(s). Put it under the FRB.
    #4 National Search for new Fire Chief.
    #5 ALS personnel to transport units. You need 15 or so of them — if you can make BLS transport people quickly rather than waiting for ALS.
    #6 50% more BLS transport units. Gut whatever you have to. 5th man on trucks & Squads? Gone. Aides? Gone. Staffed Hazmat Unit? Gone.
    #7 send a BLS ambulance as soon as the PSAP knows it’s an EMS call.
    #8 send ALS non emergency to charlie calls
    #9 stop sending fire trucks on all but 5% of EMS calls.
    #10 turf alphas to private companies.

  • Uptown at The Woodner

    “Gut whatever you have to. 5th man on trucks & Squads? Gone. Aides? Gone. Staffed Hazmat Unit? Gone.”

    Mr. or Mrs. I Solve Problems,

    You obviously don’t know your DCFD history or choose not to remember.

    Do the names John Carter, Louis Matthews, and Anthony Phillips ring a bell? On behalf of those three men who paid with their lives for the “gut whatever you have to” attitude, you Sir or Madam can stick it! Those Line of Duty Deaths can be directly attributed to reductions in manpower, such as the 5th man on the truck and the battalion aides.

    Since the entire fire service preaches operating on the fireground in pairs. I say bring back the 6th man on the truck, and put a 6th man on the squad.

    Maybe in urban areas like DC, we should stop trying to solve the public health crisis with the “FIRE” Department.

    There are enough serious fires in DC to justify the “FIRE” Department. There are enough serious medical locals in DC to justify a separate “EMS” Department, and there are enough non-emergency medical locals to justify DC-DOH finding a way to solve the public health issues that have been laid at the feet of the DC Firefighters.

    Doing what’s right seems to be lost in this day and age of “do more with less”…

    • I Solve Problems

      With all due respect to the deceased, quit using their names to featherbed your job.

      John Carter fell through the floor of a Kennedy St bodega. If any one think would have changed the events leading to his death, it would have been proper and effective code enforcement.

      Barring that: improper size up, freelancing, poor communications, all played a larger role in that operation than the staffing of ladder companies. There were no laddering issues. Forcible entry to the front was not an issue. The squad was there to search.

      Ventilation? Improper ventilation probably exacerbated conditions in the basement, leading to the collapse. The truck in the rear forced entry to the basement, the engine with them reported seeing smoke sucked in. This was fresh oxygen to the fire. Had there been 6 man trucks, and had those members not been freelancing, but focused on ventilation, the collapse might have been sooner and more severe. No amount of natural ventilation reduces temperatures in a vent-limited fire. You just make a more efficient process for burning fuel.

      Having a fifth man on Truck 22 and Truck 6 would not have saved Sgt. John Carter’s Life.

      Cherry Road? Again, poor size up, freelancing, and bad ventilation. No amount of ladder company staffing would have kept whoever crushed the side 3 slider from doing that and enabling the flow path that killed Phillips & Matthews and injured Morgan. Had Truck 13 been in service, the events would have just happened two minutes earlier. Perhaps a little fire behaviour knowledge, or a better size up, would have allowed the IC to allow E-17 to put the fire out as soon as they could. We’ll never know.

      Smart firefighting is more important than a 5th or 6th man. Boston, older and taller than DC does fine with 4 man ladder companies. If you need more personnel, call them. If you’ve got firefighters on ambulances in the first due house, use them as firefighters.

      An adequate FIRE DEPARTMENT ambulance fleet means that you don’t have to send your fire trucks up and down the road running EMS calls, beating up the fleet and personnel, while virtually ensuring that each box alarm includes out of position and not-normally-assigned companies. Third Service? You’ll still be running fire trucks up and down the street, with the same problems.

      If you want to honor the men who died in the line of duty in DC, focus on the factors listed first in their reports: freelancing, size up, coordinated ventilation.

      If you want to save lives and reduce injury – put the resources you have where they are needed: on transport units.

      Doing what’s right includes spending the public’s money wisely. DCFEMS isn’t poorly funded. It’s poorly run.

  • Uptown at the Woodner


    With all due respect to the deceased, I have never had one second in any featherbed while working for the DC Government, nor would I attempt to capitalize on the backs of dead firemen. As a matter of point, I’ve always made the extra effort to give more of myself to the city and the job, than what my earnings reflect every two weeks. Padding a featherbed is an absurd accusation.

    Having lived through the “gut whatever you have to” days with Chief Latin, it’s my opinion that the battalion aides & the 5th man on the truck would have made a difference on the positive side for Cherry Road and Kennedy Street. I didn’t say it was an end all – be all, nor is it an absolute that firemen wouldn’t have died. But I still think it would have been a much needed positive for two very negative incidents.

    It’s interesting that you can have educated opinions about both incidents yet you refer to “Truck 22”?

    I agree about your reference to “smart firefighting”. It takes practice to become a smart anything, be it fireman, emt, or paramedic. Unfortunately there have been and still are times that training takes a backseat to call volume or other agendas considered more important.

    Your Boston point could go down the road of statistics. Point-Counterpoint all day long, Triple decker vs. three story row. High rise verses mid-rise. DC having 16 five man trucks to cover 61 land square miles vs. Boston having 23 four man trucks to cover 48 land square miles. That’s 92 truck firefighters covering a smaller response area vs. 80 truck firefighters covering a larger response area and so on. Since the BFD is rich in LADDER history and fat with truck companies, can the DCFD get Squad 4 back? After all the DCFD is rich in SQUAD history but we still lost Squad 4 and the 5th squadman during the cut days.

    The point-counterpoint of DC vs. Boston EMS would be its own thread.

    I don’t condone nor do I encourage freelancing or “thoughtless” firefighting.

    I’m down with effective and efficient when it comes to anything in life. I am not suggesting that anyone’s tax dollars be spent haphazardly, i.e. doing what’s right.

    It’s my opinion that there is enough work (emergency & non-emergency incidents, hands-on fire or ems training, continuing classroom fire or ems education, fire prevention, fire or ems public education, building inspections, and etc.) that DC or any other major urban city could have separate FIRE and separate EMS departments. Much like the public safety concept of combination Fire & Police departments failed due to the combining of separate trades, Fire & EMS are separate trades. Time has come to evaluate the “WE DO ALL” of everything approach.I’m not suggesting that DC FIRE have no EMS responsibilities. DC FIRE could assst DC EMS as appropriate.

    Yes I agree with you that DC needs more ems transport units. No matter what name is on the side of the ems unit, Emergency Hospital, DCFD-EAB, DCFEMSD, FEMS or whatever, there needs to be almost double the units on the street.

    Inefficiency was the reason that the “DCFD” got in the ambulance business in the first place. RS-1 & RS-2 fielding Ambulance 1 & Ambulance 2 to ensure that firemen could get transported in a timely fashion if injured while on duty. Yup, when call volume and training were at an ALL TIME LOW there was a separate FIRE Department and Emergency Hospital ran the Ambulances (EMS).

    There are plenty of hard workers in the DCFD that have no aspirations of making featherbeds out of any situation. Many of us are all about an honest days work for an honest days pay, and we would never try to featherbed anything off the back of any fireman who was injured or died in the line of duty.

    I.S.P. – I agree with some of your points and I certainly disagree with a few of your points. I disagree enough that I actually posted a comment on Statter911. Sorry Dave, but posting comments on Statter911 leaves me with a feeling of needing a shower after a bad night of debauchery. Thus I shall refrain from any further point-counterpoint.