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DC update: Fire investigators determined ambulance fires were accidental before deputy mayor called for police investigation.

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The Washington Post’s Peter Hermann and Amy Brittain are reporting the initial investigations by DC fire investigators into the two amulance fires last Tuesday found the fires were probably cause by “malfunctions or by shoddy repair attempts”. The reporter say they are basing this on internal incident reports the Post obtained. The reporters indicate the findings were available before Deputy Mayor Paul Quander ordered police involved in the investigation by activating the Arson Task Force and ordering the department’s own investigators to recuse themselves from the task force investigation.

Peter Hermann & Amy Brittain, The Washington Post:

District officials said the conclusions by fire investigators do not represent the final results of a criminal probe that police expect will take some time. They also said the findings do not preclude the possibility of tampering intended to make the fires appear accidental.

“I think it was irresponsible for the deputy mayor to make those allegations,” (Local 36 president Ed) Smith said. “I think the city needs to issue us a formal apology. I’m confident there was nothing done that was untoward.”

Keith St. Clair, a spokesman for Paul A. Quander Jr., the deputy mayor for public safety, said concerns remain about two fires having occurred in ambulances on opposite sides of the city on the same day. Quander, St. Clair said, “wants to know what the facts are” and wants a more thorough investigation than was done initially.

“We’re hoping this investigation shows that these fires were accidental,” St. Clair said.

The report says the fire started near the air conditioner, and it concludes that the fire was an accident. But the investigator also wrote that he was “unable to identify the specific component failure that led to this fire.”

In a report on the second fire that day, which occurred outside MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Northwest, the investigator wrote that he found a plastic container of transmission fluid stored in the engine compartment.

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