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Kenneth Ellerbe proved again why he shouldn’t be chief with his poorly conceived plan to shut busy engine & truck

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On Friday, DC City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson made an appearance at the committee he used to chair and let the current chief of the DC Fire & EMS Department have it over a half-baked idea to get more ambulances on the street. Ellerbe’s appearance in front of the City Council proved, as we told you before the hearing, the lame duck chief has no political capital after three-years in office. Zero.

Ellerbe has been such an embarrassment that even if he came up with a really good idea no one would listen. But, as usual with Ellerbe, his idea was laughably ill-conceived.

In a time when the city population is growing and the local government is not having serious financial difficulties, Ellerbe proposed closing a busy engine and truck company to put more ambulances and paramedic units on the street. Closing a fire company when you absolutely have to because there is no money is tough enough. Trying to do so, with not a shred of evidence such a drastic action is needed, is stupidity. And Phil Mendelson let the chief know it.

Peter Hermann and Rohan A. Nadkarni, The Washington Post:

At a public hearing, Mendelson criticized Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe for not seeking comment from residents, unions and lawmakers before rolling out the proposal. He said the chief had failed to hire a sufficient number of paramedics, and he challenged Ellerbe to “bet your paycheck” on whether more than the current 191 paramedics would be on the payroll next year.

The debate over staffing at the fire station on New Jersey Avenue, which houses Truck 4 and Engine 6, overshadowed a goal that otherwise virtually everyone supports — more ambulances on the streets when they’re needed most. It is an effort by Ellerbe to respond to persistent problems such as slow response times, inadequate care and broken equipment. The deficiencies have drawn the wrath of residents and council members, and some have called for the chief’s ouster and labeled the department a national embarrassment.

For his part, Chief Ellerbe, who up until now, has at least been respectful to the members of the City Council, took a page out of Dennis Rubin’s notebook and gave an arrogant smart-ass reply to questioning by Mendelson. In addition, the chief tried to embarrass a young firefighter who dared to make the case that the city could have the additional ambulances and also keep open Engine 6 and Truck 4. In the story below, you will see despite his dismissal of the firefighter’s idea, the chief admitted that could be a possibility.

It has taken three years but the press, the citizens and the politicians have finally gotten wise to Kenneth Ellerbe. They are understanding the chief who failed to hire paramedics and buy and maintain fire apparatus, has not had the safety of the citizens in mind while leading the department.

Instead, Kenneth Ellerbe has used his office to settle scores and carry-out a personal agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with public safety.

Kenneth Ellerbe has nine more months to continue to inflict harm on the citizens. His performance Friday should be enough proof that it’s time for Kenneth Ellerbe to leave or at least be hidden away from public view so has not to cause further embarrassment to the city.


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Comments - Add Yours

  • Smooth Bore Tip

    He isn’t the sharpest Halligan on the truck, is he?

  • Fire21

    One can only shake their head and wonder why LRB has remained in office as long as he has. My hope for the DCFD is that they find a gem similar to Alan Brunacini to replace this nothing of a chief.

    • UseToBeDC

      Alan Brunacini????
      That would be almost as BAD as LRB
      Brunacini is a snake oil salesman who did more harm than good.
      What the DCFD needs is a fire chief from the northeast. FDNY would be a good place to look.
      One that understands that FIGHTING FIRES is the PRIMARY responsibility of the Fire Department. And ancillary “busy work” is not a good use of resources. That guy from Phoenix has had it backwards all this time.

      Hopefully LRB leaves before January but if not I am sure there are countdown clocks in every firehouse in DC!!

      • Doing It

        That is a nightmare isn’t it. I can see it now, “drywall wagon one to command.” DCFD is still an aggressive interior attack fire department. We don’t need a coward from the west coast in charge of us. Give us some scumbag fireman who has put some fires out, over a bookwork fire chief any day.

  • Harvey817

    makes one wonder why he was anointed. could this be another example of affirmative action and how this is WRONG?

    • Doing It

      He was appointed because he is the Mayor’s friend. Please don’t attempt to push your affirmative action claims on this, it has nothing to do with it.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    When you surround yourself with idiots, and you yourself are an idiot, idiotic things happen.
    LRB could give two shits less, just like Lt Davis he will walk away with a big fat pension for being a leach on the Departments ass for 31 years.
    I hope everyone remembers all his leadership skills when he runs for city council.

  • Scooter


  • Titanic

    There’s something that bothers me whenever LRB talks, and I don’t mean his continuous flurry of horrible ideas. LRB keeps quoting that 80% of the runs in the District are for EMS. These are NOT accurate numbers.

    Some may remember that shortly after LRB was appointed by Gray he put out a memo stating that all motor vehicle collisions will be dispatched as “medical” runs instead of “fire” runs. Most people dismissed it as a pointless change. But when you add up all the MVC’s run in the district – from the minor fender-bender with no injuries to the roll-overs that require several fire trucks to mitigate- there’s a large number of runs LRB can now tally under “EMS”.

    DCFD goes on tens of thousands of MVC’s a year. Many thousands are merely property damage accidents with no injuries. According to LRB, those count toward the ems tally.

    Several thousand MVC runs involve several fire trucks and a battalion chief with only 1-2 ambulances. Even if 80% of the response is “fire” related, LRB celebrates another EMS tally.

    By this logic, all hazmat incidents have an ambulance, we should call them “ems” as well. Many high angle rescues require a trip to the hospital…EMS. People are often transported to the hospital after a house fire……that’s another one for E-M-S. For those keeping track at home, DCFD is 100% EMS

    The point of all of this… LRB has doctored his “numbers” to justify his retaliatory plan. They are worth less than the cheap toilet paper at the firehouse.

    January can’t come fast enough.

    • Slim Shady

      Really……………That’s your argument?? DC goes to many fires that are not seen or heard of because we don’t have a PIO to let the media know about them.


    For once I am speechless…great post Dave…

  • Tim B

    The lame duck chief will try to inflict as much damage as he can before leaving. The counsel should apply as much pressure as possible to the lame duck mayor to have him removed and assign an interim until after the election.


    Alan Brunacini…now thats funny…him and the rest of these book smart used car salesman have over run the Fire Service with countless articles in magazines to pay my fee to hear me talk about the little fireground knowledge i have…they’ve elevated their status by proclaiming many things, but being a firemans fireman was never one of them….People like this remind me of the sunday preacher you see on tv…and we all know who his protege is and with that going duck hunting

  • WC

    When the hell are they going to give the Chief the boot. They need to do it now, neither of the candidates for Mayor say there are going to keep him. He is wasting the air where a real chief should be

  • UseToBeDC

    The PRIMARY responsibility of the FIRE Department is Fires!!
    Ambulances can save medical lives but ONLY fire trucks can put out fires.
    Note: Obviously rescue activities are also the responsibility of the Fire Department.
    The solution is to have enough ambulances and only use fire trucks under extraordinary circumstances. So that they are readily available for their PRIMARY responsibility.
    The Fire trucks are an INSURANCE POLICY that you hope you don’t need but are glad they are there when you do.
    Not, as some would have you believe, a manpower pool that does nothing and needs to be assigned busy work.
    The District of Columbia is awash in money so there is NO reason not to have enough ambulances(although they do have a problem with abuse of the 911 system that also needs addressed)
    With sensible leadership the DCFD could be an example for the rest of the country. Even to those Brunacidiots out west.

    • Fire21

      Are you saying that when a building is on fire and people are hanging out windows, you will go in and put out the fire and leave them hanging? Of course not, you will do what you can to save those people’s lives. At least that’s what I hope you would do.

      I repeat, the PRIMARY responsibility AND duty of a fire department is life safety. If you think otherwise, you ought to go back to proby by school.

      • UseToBeDC

        Putting the fire out saves EVERYBODY!!!

      • dcFD

        Actually. The way DCFD’s SOGs are written, It says that Engine Companies perform rescues by putting a hose line between the fire and the occupants or extinguishing the fire. Any “proby” in the DCFD knows this. While I will agree that is not how all rescues are performed, it is certainly the most important key aspect of performing rescues for everyone. Everyone’s life is made easier when a line is in place, life is easier for the lineman when the roof is being opened, and life is easier for the squad when all of the above are being done. All we want here in the DCFD is a chief that will let us enjoying doing all that again. Not making it seem like we don’t care about the citizens if we take pride in doing our jobs as firefighters well.

  • That guy

    I don’t have first hand knowledge but from all accounts I have heard he has less than five yes in a company. And I only give him that cause I don’t know the exact years, he then went to fire prevention or investigation and has been in administration since. Beyond that he might have been in a company for a couple yes but true experience, I hear he made an about face if he even thought he saw something orange and glowing.

    • Andy Nonomous

      about 5 years then went to fire prevention, when he made LT he was at Engie 30 for a tad then back downtown. When Tippet was Chief, lrb was 1stBFC but nbot for very long. Then he was DFC in FFD for a short while. While DFC at Training he threw away a lot of records almost as to undermine what people had on file for education points at promotion time. And yes during his 5 years in firefighting it was like a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (run away)

      • Lefty

        Thanks. It is pretty obvious in todays fire service that these chiefs with all these letters after there name seem to think it makes them more knowledgeable. I’ll take a chief who was a stud when it came to the fire ground and commanding excellence from his crews vs these lame duck chiefs who feel the need to get theirs from the classroom.

    • 19262007

      It’s closer to 10 years in the Firefighting (Operations) Division. Now the question is, why on God’s green earth would the city council agree to let this cat be the Chief with only 10 years of operational experience?!! Oh wait, this is the city that agreed Ronnie Few would make a good Chief…

  • lpndj6

    I doubt they could get him to take the job but the Fire Chief from Phoenix just retired out here and he did a hell of a job running a combined agency which handled both Fire and EMS (when most localities contracted with one of Rural Metro’s divisions such as PMT or Southwest for EMS 911). Bob Khan started out as a rookie and spent 30+yrs here in Phoenix and still is reasonably young to take on another leadership role. Im not sure however he would take the job given the mess DCFEMS is however somebody like him is who DC needs to turn the situation around. That or do as Ive been suggesting and break it up and go with 3rd party EMS such as AMR because sadly something has to give. I know good guys who have walked away from DCFEMS because of the treatment of very good ALS providers not withstanding the horrible morale issue that is rampant with the entire department as a whole. Its sad that a city that should be 1st rate with its public services barely is handling it better then Detroit who is bankrupt.

    • Slim Shady

      Phoenix is what got us in this EMS, BS in the first place. What’s the last 3 letters in problems?? You got it, EMS!
      Rubin was all up Brunacini’s ass while he was chief here.(I liked Rubin, don’t get me wrong) Brunacini has destroyed the fire service across the country with his BS customer service,”Progressive” way of running fire departments.
      It’s not rocket science. Put the wet stuff on the red stuff, treat people with respect, sticky side down, be professional, hire competent, people without criminal records and surround yourself with competent leaders who can rally the troops and not demoralize them. It’s that simple! can I be fire chief now?

  • volunteer for life

    I say get A city wide tour commander from FDNY who seen more fire work then LRB dreamt of. Has plenty of admin work under his belt. Has respect for the men under him and wants A top notch force and will support it.

  • sick of the cronyism

    Sgt Sid Polish should be the fire chief. He is one of the few that could unite the Department and move us forward. We dont need anyone from FDNY. We dont need anyone from Georgia. We need someone that knows how to utilize the skills and members we currently have. We need someone that can once again inspire the troops and make them feel great about coming to work at the best damn Fire and EMS Department in the WORLD!

    • UseToBeDC

      Not for nothin
      If the DCFD copied the FDNY(instead of the counties) especially regarding sending fire trucks on EMS calls there would be a lot of happy firemen in DC.

    • Ray Fraley

      You should go to the PFC for that statement and be evaluated, seriously

      • Sick of the cronyism

        What part Ray? FDNY or Sid Polish?

  • UseToBeDC

    That sounds great until some idiot decides to replace fire trucks with ambulances.
    Hence the “Insurance Policy” argument
    And not for nothing there are still a LOT of fires in the District!

  • Focus

    1) sack the chief
    2) manage for engagement
    3) overwhelm the short term EMS ‘problem’ with ambulances, from off budget for now. Make a case to increase the budget.
    4A) make being a BLS provider not suck (see engagement)
    4B) make being an ALS provider not suck (see engagement)
    5) go out and buy a dozen demo fire trucks and two dozen demo ambulances. Right now.
    6) build a pathway to remove “unscheduled out-of hospital medical service” from the purview of the fire department. Keep EMS in the fire department.
    7) lose the goofy name “FEMS”. Rebrand the department to regain the public’s trust and the employees’ engagement.
    8) ‘right size’ the department’s resource to maintain world-beating response times and staffing levels, while giving plenty of time to train, drill, inspect, and educate. May be more, certainly not much less.
    9) get measured by outside sources and commit to keeping those standards: CFSE, ISO, whoever. DC sucks at keeping it’s own standards – when the mayor’s bad, the health department will let fire department ambulances be substandard all day long.
    10) Train, drill, model, simulate, deploy, and operate to address the changing boundaries of knowledge regarding fire science, evidence-based-medicine, and other roles of the fire service.