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Two D.C. Ambulances Catch Fire Tuesday

Ambulance 27 caught fire during an emergency call in Southeast D.C.
Photo via International Association of Firefighters Local 36
Ambulance 27 caught fire during an emergency call in Southeast D.C.

Two D.C. ambulances caught fire Tuesday in a bad day for the city's emergency responders.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 36, the union that represents D.C. firefighters, tweeted out images of the Ambulance 27 partially engulfed in flames as it responded to a call on Benning Road SE on Tuesday morning.

No one was injured by the fire, and investigators are looking into what caused the flames. The ambulance had been called to respond to a medical emergency, and another ambulance transported the victim to a local hospital.

In the afternoon, it was reported that another ambulance caught fire while at the Washington Hospital Center.

A newer ambulance from the same firehouse on Minnesota Avenue NE caught fire earlier this month after delivering a patient to the Washington Hospital Center, and was taken of out service for repairs.

The city's fleet of 39 ambulances has come under scrutiny in recent months. In March, city officials said they were investigating ambulance response times after a pair of incidents in which two people—one a police officer—were left waiting for emergency care.

More recently, D.C. was forced to contract private ambulances to cover events at Nationals Park, and on Monday the Washington Times reported that the ambulance that accompanies President Obama's motorcade ran out of gas. Over the weekend staffing shortages left D.C. without two-thirds of its advanced life-support ambulances, according to the Washington Post.

Earlier this year D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Ken Ellerbe apologized for ambulance response times, and has recently been subject to calls for his resignation. This month he said that the time it takes for first responders to get to the scene of an emergency has improved, and city officials have said that new ambulances will soon arrive.

Last month D.C. announced that it would pay an outside firm $180,000 to conduct an audit of the city's state of ambulance readiness.

"This is definitely an eye-opener," said Ed Smith, the union's president, of the ambulance fire. "We've been sounding the alarm for two years. Everybody deserves better service."

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