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D.C. Fire Department’s fleet investigated by Inspector General's office

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DC Fire Department DC Fire Department
  • D.C. Fire Department’s fleet investigated by Inspector General's officeMore>>

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WASHINGTON, DC -

The D.C. firefighters union is not alone in its investigation into the readiness of the D.C. fire department’s fleet of trucks, engines and ambulances.

Fox 5 has learned the D.C. Inspector General’s office began its own probe about a year ago when an investigator discovered abandoned equipment stored in a building on Georgia Avenue.

Earlier this week the firefighters union revealed it had found at least six pumper trucks and two ladder trucks, claimed by the fire department to be in its reserve fleet, had actually been sold by the city.

The inspector general got involved when it noticed a ladder truck stored in a building behind a fire house on Georgia Avenue with a sign saying it had been out of service since 2010.

Dabney Hudson, the union’s second vice president, was questioned in the probe.

"I was contacted and questioned by the inspector general early last year, January or February of last year", said union official Dabney Hudson.

Hudson says as part of the apparatus committee he had knowledge of the fleet.

"They had some serious concerns about the state of readiness of our fleet and the ability of firefighters to respond to incidents", said Hudson.

The union’s second vice president says he cooperated with the probe but says the true readiness of the fleet didn't become apparent until the city councils oversight hearing held last month.

By the union’s count there may be one backup ladder truck in reserve--not the 13 claimed by the city.

And although the fire department says it has ordered six new engines and two new trucks the reality is.

"You are looking at another 18 to 24 months if they can clear up the problems they are having in procurement", said Hudson.

That's because the union says the pumpers and trucks have to be built to specification to fit the city's firehouses and neighborhood back alleys.

"The ladder companies, they throw ladders up to upper floors to perform rescues on fires and then they have ground ladders that they through to perform rescues on the lower floors, so if there is a ladder truck down its a longer response time for the next ladder truck to come in on a fire", said Union President Ed smith.

In addition, the union says it has been unable to document the annual testing of the ladders recommended by the national fire protection association.

"To the best of my knowledge I do not believe they have been tested, the last records I can find date back to 2009", Hudson said.

On Thursday, Fox 5 took pictures of as many as six ambulances that were parked unlocked outside the fleet maintenance shop in southwest. Since they operate without keys an official agreed it was a security concern and said they would be locked.

When we returned to the shop Friday we found the ambulances locked but many of the doors to the engines parked on the street open.

We reached out to Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, the deputy mayor for public safety, the mayor's spokesman and City Council Member Tommy Wells for comment on our story.

Tommy Wells responded saying he was unaware the inspector general had conducted an investigation into the fire department’s fleet.

FOX 5 received this via email after 7 p.m. Friday.

DISTRICT FIRE AND EMS CHIEF ELLERBE RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS REGARDING LADDER TRUCK TESTING AND ACQUISITIONS

F&EMS ladder trucks are currently beingtested, with the most recent test taking place this week, on Monday, March 11,2013.  Ladder trucks were not tested last year due to a lack of reservetrucks.

With regard to the procurement issue, the processwas complicated by the fact that a winning bidder refused to grant theDepartment a five-year warranty.  When the bidding process was reopened,the vendor filed a protest, further delaying the order.  The new processis almost now complete and we expect a new vendor will soon be awarded thecontract. New ladder trucks are being built to the specifications developed incollaboration with members of the firefighters’ union.

As we previously have indicated, since 2011, theDepartment has made purchases of apparatus.  These deliveries include:

6 Engines

4 Trucks

2 Rescue Squads

32 Ambulances

Also, on order for this fiscal year (2013) are:

6 Engines

2 Trucks

13 Ambulances

1 Boat

Kenneth B.Ellerbe, Chief, District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services


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