DC Fire Chief Said He Can Add Ambulances Without Decommissioning Shaw Station

Heading off a potential showdown with the D.C. Council and community residents, the District’s fire chief now says he can put an additional six ambulances on city streets without removing a truck and engine from a station in Northwest Washington’s historic Shaw neighborhood.

Instead of putting all six additional ambulances at the centrally-located station in Northwest, Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe said he will instead disperse them. Three might fit at the Shaw station on New Jersey Avenue, without having to decommission Engine 6 and Truck 4, but three others will have go elsewhere. He said two might be based east of the Anacostia River.

The about-face, described in a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, comes after a contentious hearing on April 10 in which the station’s decommissioning came as a surprise, even as officials endorsed the additional ambulances. Mendelson, noting the it was mentioned in the last line of a lengthy document to the public safety committee, described it as a “little bomb.”

“He is taking closing the firehouse off the table,” Mendelson said. “I think that’s a relief to everybody. Actually, the number of firehouses may warrant some study, but we can’t try to close a firehouse in this way without further discussion.”

Ellerbe had sought approval from the public safety committee because removing the truck and engine from Shaw meant a reduction in service that required Council approval. Ellerbe said at the time he needed the station to make room for the additional ambulances.

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