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What did the fire chief know & when did he know it? Washington City Paper raises questions about deputy chief’s retirement & Chief Ellerbe’s knowledge of faulty fleet list.

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Other news coverage from Thursday

Columnist puts spotlight on Deputy Mayor Paul Quander over fire & EMS issues

We have been following the news coverage in recent weeks of the various problems surrounding the DC Fire & EMS Department. There has been so much news this week that we missed an important one last night when we put our summary together. It’s someone we rarely overlook, Alan Suderman, who writes the Loose Lips column at Washington City Paper.

Suderman dissects Chief Ellerbe’s statement (below) following WTTG-TV/Fox 5 reporter Paul Wagner’s story on Wednesday about the terribly inaccurate list of reserve apparatus the department provided the City Council and the retirement of Deputy Chief Wayne Branch, who had been in charge of apparatus maintenance:

No. 2:  When did Ellerbe find out that his department had submitted faulty information?

This one is a little tougher to answer, as it turns out that Branch announced his retirement “a couple of weeks ago,” according to Walls, not after the Fox5 story ran.

In his statement, Ellerbe says he directed Branch “to conduct an audit of his submission of fleet readiness to ensure the accuracy of his report” in the wake of “recent reports” on the city’s reserve numbers, which only came out yesterday. Ellerbe’s statement continues by saying that Branch’s “research revealed” that he had submitted faulty data, which you’ll remember is part of the reason why Ellerbe says Branch is retiring.

Union boss Ed Smith, whose organization Ellerbe thanked for bringing this issue to light, says he did not talk to Ellerbe about the faulty data submitted to the Council before the Fox5 story aired yesterday.

So when did Ellerbe find out he’d given the Council inaccurate info? A couple weeks ago when Branch announced his retirement or following yesterday’s reports?

“I really don’t know,” says Walls. “I can’t answer that.”

Read Alan Suderman’s entire post

Chief Ellerbe’s statement from Wednesday evening:

Following recent reports on the District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services reserve fleet status, I instructed the Deputy Chief of our Fleet Maintenance Division to conduct an audit of his submission of fleet readiness to ensure the accuracy of his report.

The result of the Deputy Chief’s research revealed that he had, in fact, used an old fleet schedule that had not properly excluded apparatus that had been removed from our inventory. As a result of his oversight, inaccurate information was reported and included apparatus that were no longer in the department’s fleet.

As a result of this oversight and inaccurate communication, coupled with an increase in his division’s overtime expenditures, the Deputy Chief has informed me of his decision to retire, which I have accepted. He will remain with us long enough to transfer any pertinent historical knowledge. His replacement has already been selected and notified.

I personally called union president Ed Smith about this matter and I want to thank the firefighters’ union for bringing this inaccurate information to our attention.

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