DC Fire Chief Urged to Back Down from Threat to Discipline Over - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

DC Fire Chief Urged to Back Down from Threat to Discipline Over Uniform Change

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The DC firefighters union is calling on the fire chief to back down from his threat to discipline members over a uniform change. This after a veteran firefighter spoke exclusively with Fox 5 Wednesday night.

Union president Ed Smith says any uniform change is "wasteful" and if the chief wants the members to comply he should pay for it.

The fire chief, for reasons still not clear, has changed the department’s logo and has ordered everyone to make the switch.

The D.C. Fire Department has changed logos four times in the last twenty years.

The last time, just three years ago- a decision that would likely go unnoticed if it wasn't so costly to the city and firefighters who are expected to purchase most of their cold weather gear.

The firefighters union is now calling for the fire chief to unify the department by paying for the change.

Four logos have been used by the department since the early nineties.

The last change, made in 2009, was designed to unify the department by including EMS or emergency medical services.

But after Chief Kenneth Ellerbe took office another change was introduced.

The only clear difference- the addition of two flags- one from the District of Columbia.

"Any change that's at a cost to the taxpayer and is not done through attrition is a waste," said Firefighters Union President Edward Smith in an interview Thursday.

That's the way the last logo change was being handled - through attrition. As new firefighters came in, they were required to wear hats, coats, sweatshirts and tee shirts with the newest logo.

However, Chief Kenneth Ellerbe sees things differently and gave the entire department a deadline to make the change.

But he declined to pick up the tab.

"I want it provided to all my members, that's my stance, plain and simple, if you are talking unity and you provide to some and not to the others, that's not unity, it’s just causing more division," said Smith.

Some high ranking officers and EMS personnel, because the department had some extra money, were given clothing with the new logo.
The issue has become so emotional, a veteran lieutenant spoke out on FOX 5 Wednesday night, saying the chief had created a hostile work environment.

When asked to comment today, Chief Ellerbe sent us this statement,

“(I) don't think that I’ll be commenting any further on this one. The memorandums, which are self explanatory, are not meant to be divisive. Some members are using this to divide the department, when they had no problem wearing insignia that was not official.”

And it’s not just clothing, the logo will be stripped from apparatus as well- a decision that baffles the union.

"The whole fleet is in deplorable condition, the shop personnel are understaffed and over worked, and to have them worrying about a cosmetic change to a fire truck when we have little or no reserve fleet to ride on in the event of a major emergency or call back is not logical at all."

Chief Ellerbe says he will discipline anyone who is not wearing uniforms with the new logo on it as of this week.

A decision that has some firefighters turning their coats, sweatshirts and hats inside out showing no logo at all.

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