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A failure to respond at all levels in the Nation’s Capital


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Coverage of today’s news that Lt. Kellene Davis has submitted her retirement papers above and here: WUSA-TV, WJLA-TV/ABC-7  , The Washington Post

Washington Post editorial calls the department a national embarrassment

DC Mayor Vincent Gray says he’s “outraged”. Yes, Mayor Gray, anyone in this region and even around the world who has seen this story about a firefighting crew in the Nation’s Capital refusing to walk across the street to help a dying man is outraged. The difference between you, Mayor Gray, and those reading or watching the story is that YOU have the power to finally do something about the failure to respond that occurred not only at the Rhode Island Avenue firehouse, but at other levels of the City government. Here’s an outline to help you:

Rookie Firefighter/Cadet

By all accounts so far, this new firefighter didn’t know or wasn’t trained to do the basics of his job. I’ve never been a DC firefighter, but here’s what I would have done when a citizen approached to tell me about a man down across the street. I would have hit the firehouse alerting system immediately and announced we have a response for a man down at the shopping center. With another firefighter, I would have then grabbed the EMS gear and started across the street to the patient, knowing the rest of the crew would alert the dispatchers to the call and bring the ladder truck over right behind us.

Mayor Gray you need find out exactly why an on-duty member of the DC Fire & EMS Department didn’t know how to do this and immediately address whatever issues you find.

DC Lt. Davis 2

Lt. Kallene Davis

Everything I need to know about the failings of Lt. Davis are from her own words in the statement she wrote to Chief Ellerbe on Sunday, published by The Washington Post and WTTG-TV/Fox 5. Just read these three sentences on Lt. Davis’ immediate reaction to learning there was an emergency across the street from the firehouse.

I then asked F/F G. Murphy to get me an address and I will be right there. F/F G. Murphy did not return with an address. This was an (Unusual Occurance) in that my order was not followed. I proceeded to look for him.

“I will be right there”. Really? No, lieutenant, your job is to “go” right there and be in charge. The address is very simple. It’s the odd side of the 1300 block of Rhode Island Avenue, Northeast. Get there and then provide a specific address to OUC. Even if you don’t know that your firehouse is 1340 and just know that it’s located in the 1300 block, you should be aware by now that as the numbers increase on a street in DC, even is on the left and odd is on the right. Again, I am not a DC firefighter and I know that.

“I proceeded to look for him”. That’s your priority over dealing with the emergency across the street? You run a five person ladder truck. If one of your firefighters can’t be found, I think you should still be able to handle a man down call with the other three and then deal with your personnel issue.

Whether it’s all the fault of her firefighter, as Lt. Davis outlined, remains to be seen. But based solely on her own version of her own actions to an emergency response, it’s clear Lt. Davis is not able to do the job she was hired to do.

F/F G. Murphy

All we know publicly about Firefighter Murphy is based on Lt Davis’ account. Obviously if that account turns out to be accurate there is no excuse and needs to be dealt with harshly. Let’s hope we can see his statement so we can at least judge him on his own words as we’ve done with his lieutenant.

DC Ellerbe, Quander and Gray

Chief Kenneth Ellerbe

Like the crew from Truck 15 B, Chief Ellerbe failed to respond. He’s done so in multiple ways. Some of which we’ve covered in recent days.

  • By all accounts Chief Ellerbe was alerted to the serious accusation by the family of Mr. Mills on Saturday. The chief didn’t order the crew to desk duty until Wednesday or Thursday. By contrast, you may recall that Chief Ellerbe ordered another lieutenant sent home immediately upon learning the officer wore the wrong jacket to a drill at the training academy.
  • Chief Ellerbe has failed to respond to the news media and level with the public on a situation that greatly impacts the image of the department, its firefighters and the chief’s own leadership. As we’ve noted before, this has become SOP with Chief Ellerbe during a crisis.
  • Simultaneously over the past week or so Chief Ellerbe has been handling a different issue, the recent arrests of about a dozen firefighters on various criminal charges. The chief ordered background checks on all 1800 or so uniformed employees of the department. As we pointed out previously, this was another response failure by Chief Ellerbe. The chief once again failed to respond to the transition report by former Chief Dennis Rubin. In that report more than three years ago, Chief Rubin listed the background checks as a priority program in progress. Chief Rubin also listed the hiring of paramedics, apparatus replacement and issues with apparatus maintenance. Chief Ellerbe also ignored those issues until each became a crisis for the department.

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander

Like Chief Ellerbe, Paul Quander has failed to respond as an effective leader in yet another public safety crisis. Quander has allowed this event to linger on for an entire week without a clear accounting of what happened and how it’s going to be fixed. This also includes what happened at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC – DC’s 911 center). Quander should have known since the end of business on Monday (if not sooner) whose fault it was that the response to the 911 call made on behalf of Mr. Mills was sent 26 blocks away to the wrong quadrant of the city. Quander should have provided that information to the press and the public immediately.

The only positive sign in Quander’s handling of this crisis compared to some previous ones is that, so far, he hasn’t tried to divert our attention with one of his outlandish charges that turn out not to be true. These have included bringing up the possibility of an organized sick out of firefighters on New Year’s Eve 2012 (the inspector general reported the personnel shortage was actually a management failure) and that there was the possibility of sabotage  in a series of ambulance fires (the city’s own reports indicated they were a result of poor maintenance). I guess there is still time for Quander to create a false diversion for this crisis.

Mayor Vincent Gray

Yes, Mayor Gray, you have also failed to respond and have brought about a crisis of confidence in one of the most important services your city provides. Besides not insisting on a clear and detailed response to this incident early this week, you have not been holding your deputy mayor and fire chief responsible for consistently poor performances. It’s three years into your administration and you still let these two guys point fingers instead of taking responsibility for problems under their commands.

At this point (and for quite a while now) it’s not Adrian Fenty or Dennis Rubin’s fire and EMS department. The problems never were sabotaged ambulances or a sick out or any other of the excuses that have been used to divert attention from the real issues. The problem is leadership. Until you recognize it and properly handle it, you will be dealing with many more of these issues in public safety and people in charge who only know to make the crisis worse.

DC Engome 26 Truck 15



Comments - Add Yours

  • Distressed

    Dave, if you’ll remember, John Botwin, a Technician and Paramedic at E-26 (ironically the same firehouse that T-15 is housed in) on number 1 platoon, the shift that works the day before number 2, was IMMEDIATELY placed on desk duty when he tried to raise the alarm over the failure of management and leadership in the Fire Dept and the Administration. Yet it took longer than that to place Lt Davis on desk duty. I wonder just why this was the case. It isn’t like Ellerbe ( I will not call him chief…) wasn’t aware of ‘troublemakers’ at E-26/T-15…

    • gunsnhoses

      Great point. Overwhelming, overt, retaliation against targeted members using the disciplinary system.

      Can anyone guess what will come out of this?? Well, I can, Dave. Lt Davis was sleeping during the day because she has to work a 24 hour shift. Yep, the shift is the reason Mr Mills died.

      Year after year we have had to suffer with inept hiring practice because of the cadet program and the other 90% of the Department has to suffer the consequences. Disgusting, IMO

      • manonwheels2o2

        how do you know she was sleeping? so are you seriously telling me that no recruit has ever done something? how about mr statter reveal the last time the dcfd did a sweep and how many recruits had records not reported to the department. how about that. you attack the cadet. I hope that mr murphy was not a cadet himself…according to lt davis….occupying a bed during the daytime? surely lets hope this is not a recruit doing such thing.

        you have the nerve to skip over mr murphy and put blame on the cadet weeellllll after mr murphy had initial contact with the woman.

        and mr statter. you after covering fire departments including dc’s own for 30 years its easy for you to say you would alert the bells. what would you do fresh out of high school? this is probably his first job and definitely first career. he has a tough time as is learning on the job. learning both apparatus in the firehouse as well as ems and local alarms. its quite possible the crew members didn’t think of every scenario to tell him what to do just in case…..a life was lost. mistakes were made but please. save this rant cuz if you wanna throw the cadet under the bus you definitely gotta throw mr murphy under the bus as well. IMHO

        • DStatter

          Did you read what I said? If the cadet wasn’t trained how to handle such a situation, find out why. I may have read something different or didn’t hear the coverage you did. Does it say somewhere FF Murphy had contact with the family or those coming to the firehouse? I missed that.

          • manonwheels2o2

            from her report, I gathered that murphy spoke to the woman. after all…it was murphy who apparently told the lieutenant. it was afterwards that murphy spoke to the rookie. I could be wrong but that’s what I gathered. where did it state that the lieutenant was sleeping? yet no one challenged that theory. on the contrary it was murphy who was found where?

          • manonwheels2o2

            im not challenging you at all. there are always 3 possible sides to a story. in this case 4. each of their sides and the truth. im sure all 3 of the sides wont sound the same. my point is directed solely towards gunsnhoses. he stated that the shift is the reason mr cecil died. a 12 hour shift consists of 7am -7pm. if a 24 shift is the cause then wouldn’t that call have to happen in the wee hours of the night for the 24 hour shift to be the blame? and not the afternoon? your point makes no sense. IMHO. aside to that…to throw the cadet program under the bus was uncalled for. because im sure the recruit program isn’t squeaky clean.

  • WhatDaHell

    I LOVE YOU DAVE. Great story and the truth.

  • Publius

    In addition to Ellerbe’s many other failing, here’s a small sample of what he has failed to achieve:

    Falling behind in compliance with the Rosenbaum Task Force Recoomendations

    Same number of ambulances staffed as when he took over
    Same number of fire trucks staffed as when he took over
    Same number of incidents responded to
    Same Response TIme
    Fewer paramedics
    Fewer Chiefs
    Fewer firefighters and EMTs
    Fire Apparatus in worse shape and behind replacement schedule.
    Still no contract with the labor union

    Ellerbe gives lip service to change, but to the extent that he has brought change to the department, it’s been the sort of change the city could do without. Time for new leadership — or just some leadership.

  • I’llbedamn


  • Lineman1000

    Well said. Perhaps contact Wagner and get a guest spot to actually get more than the firefighting community on board with the atrocious failures of those in charge. Being a dc firefighter, I am disappointed our local isn’t being more vocal and saying exactly these things.

  • B-more

    bgbootylvr. I can concur with your statement. I will add that this is not new with the DC Fire Department. You can go back and look under the administration of the last four Chiefs and find high profile cases where people where denied transport or miss diagnose in the field. First of all, we do not diagnose in the field(just transport) but that is another story. The problem is there is a culture in the DC Fire Department that needs to be controlled. If the higher ups held everyone accountable and started firing employees or at least taking money out of their pocket for serious infractions. People will get the hint and start being good employees. This is not a black or white issue unfortunately that is what some people are trying to make it. The issue is some people think that all they are suppose to do is fight fire and EMS is second. Why do you think a lot of people want to work in the big city fire department? EMS. No. Fire and I get that but it is another component to your job that should be taken as serious too.

  • Fire21

    Dave, you are not a member of the DCFD, yet you show more sense about it than the Chief! You are not a member of the DC government, yet you show more leadership qualities than those two goons put together. I hope your comments that you posted here are shown to the citizens of DC so they will at least have someone telling them the truth.

  • timdnml

    That city makes Detroit look like the Garden of Eden.

  • Hydro Engineer

    Well said Dave! But it is going out to deaf ears unfortunately!

  • retrodcfd

    Dave, you have echoed my sentiments………only now find out who Lt. Davis’ political relative in the DC Gov’t is….and start the onion peel.

  • Bronwen K. Williams

    I don’t know anything about Washington DC firehouse rules or politics either, but I emphatically agree with what Dave Statter has written. Well expressed – and I hope it gets some action.

  • Hydro Engineer

    Dave Statter, Send this to the Post and Times- “Letter to the editor”

  • 19262007

    Your explanation of what a Company Officer is supposed to do is spot on. I have been a Company Officer with DCFD for 23 years and couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks.

  • cladcromwell

    Well said, Dave.
    Tell me: why do we need a background check on an employee who has been arrested at least 3 times in a very short career? Everyone knows the other FF was driving on a suspended license. Has the petty tyrant taken any action yet?
    This shouldn’t be a race issue; but clearly the wheels of justice move at a different speed for different races.
    Many would bet real money that liarbe has been told to keep quiet. That Harvard cup isn’t going to help him now and Count Chocula can’t afford to have him in front if a microphone this close to the primary.

  • RBC

    No way does Ellerbe deserve any position within this once prestigious department, much less that of Chief. The sad thing is there are many great members within the department whose reputations are being tarnished because of a few inept so called department officers. A real Chief Officer by the name of Dennis Rubin should be hired as a consultant to conduct an investigation as to how to resolve DC’s embarrassing and disgraceful situation, beginning with the firing of Ellerbe. Oh what a mess this is!

  • Hill-ite

    It is not rocket science. ELLERBE does not like whites or anyone who loves the culture of their job. He is a frustrated, sick man that needs to go. He is an embarrassment to everyone in DC. Mayor Gray this WILL be your pitfall in re-election. Get rid of him now while you still can. I ask everyone to PLEASE copy and paste this site on the Mayor’s page as well as Norton. Let’s let the voters see how much of a mockery the Mayor and fire chief are making of this city.

  • Legeros

    Preach on, Brother Dave.

  • Mark too

    Outstanding post Dave!

  • exdcfd

    Obviously, you never worked with her…

    • doing it

      He is not a capital city firefighter. Muffinhead was probably altered. I will give him that.