D.C.'s Fire Chief Ellerbe defends readiness of fleet - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

D.C.'s Fire Chief Ellerbe defends readiness of fleet

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D.C.'s Fire Chief is defending his department and its stateof readiness saying the fleet is prepared to handle all emergencies.

The chief made his remarks on WAMU's Kojo Namdi show justtwo weeks after an inspector general’s report painted a dim picture of the department’spreparedness and questioned whether it could handle a mass casualty incident.

Chief Ellerbe Friday acknowledged, as he did in front of theD.C. City Council last week, that the size of the fire departments fleet wasnot what he had previously claimed it to be.

The chief told a WAMU audience he was hiring a consultant tohelp him with the fleet and the department needed to change the way it doesbusiness.

Two weeks after the inspector general’s report and a weekafter intense questioning before the city council, Chief Ellerbe defended theservice his department is providing to the District’s residents and visitors.

 "I understand that some folks may be concernedbut our ability to respond to medical emergencies and fires still remainsconsistent and high”, said Ellerbe. “Our fleet is ready, it’s capable torespond, we respond to over one hundred and sixty calls a year and althoughthere has been focus on two or three incidents we do respond to calls and we doit very well."

On WAMU's Kojo Namdi show today the chief admitted his fleetof vehicles was not nearly the number he had previously told the D.C. City Counciland he needs a professional to help him manage it.

 "We are preparing a statement of work for aconsultant to come in and do a very deep dive in that particular businesspractice", said Ellerbe.

The chief said the department is preparing to sell off someof its old equipment to make way for new.

On the subject of paramedics Chief Ellerbe says thedepartment is now trying to hire from within as well as recruit returningveterans.

"We are developing a paramedic training program”, said Ellerbe,“We are working with one of our local institutions that trains paramedics so wehope that once these employees register and take these classes we hope that wewill have paramedics who stick with that particular area of expertise".

During last week’s council hearing the chief admitted therehad been a net loss in paramedics.

A trend the firefighters union finds deeply troubling,questioning whether the department can meet the demands of a growing city.

On the show the chief also defended his plan to eliminatethe highly popular shift firefighters have been working since the 80's, 24hours on and 72 hours off.

The union has been fighting the change but the chief Fridaysaid going to 12 hour shifts will reduce the need for overtime and willincrease efficiency, performance and will put the department in a betterposition to protect the city in the event of a major emergency.

Also Friday, 40 firefighters and civilian medics called in sick.  The departmenthad to hold a shift over to make up the gaps.  This is the third time anentire shift was held over in approximately last six months.  A move theunion says is highly unusual.

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