More Information from D.C. Fire Chief’s Appearance Before Council

ABC7 found that Chief Ellerbe did not know how many of the department’s pumper trucks had passed a safety certification test – and also was unaware that only three out of 23 ladder trucks had passed such a test.

“It doesn’t mean that the ladder trucks don’t operate. It doesn’t mean that they don’t operate well. It just means we haven’t had somebody go in and test those ladders,” he said.

But Ellerbe could not assure firefighters that they are working on safe vehicles. Union officials, who have repeatedly aired these concerns as well as many others, remain frustrated.

“It’s going to take a large infusion of money and significant hiring to fix the problems,” said Dabney Hudson with the D.C. Firefighters Association Local 36. “I didn’t hear that that was going to happen, but we are hopeful that it does.

Some of the issues at hand include: ambulances with broken fuel gauges and no air conditioning, engines catching fire, brakes working improperly, and not enough ambulances to respond to critical calls.

“Certainly, updating a system that’s been in disrepair for 15 to 20 years cannot be accomplished overnight, but at least we have identified a starting point and a path forward,” defended Chief Ellerbe, who also touted that response times are down, more paramedics have been hired, and 13 new ambulancecs are currently in use.

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