Gray, Ellerbe Say D.C. Fire And EMS 'Turning Corner' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Gray, Ellerbe Say D.C. Fire And EMS 'Turning Corner'

Play associated audio
One of two new D.C. ambulances on display during a press conference on Tuesday.
Patrick Madden
One of two new D.C. ambulances on display during a press conference on Tuesday.

After months of problems with the fire department's fleet of ambulances, D.C. Mayor Gray announced brand-new equipment for the agency and is promising more reliable service.

Nine new paramedics and 30 new ambulances will soon be on the streets of D.C. The new hires and equipment were on display outside Engine Company 2, where the mayor held his press conference on Tuesday.

'Turning a corner' on EMS service

Dozens of new firefighters, pulled from its recruit and cadet programs, were seated in the audience, including 17 military veterans.

Mayor Gray said the new equipment will help make emergency medical care in D.C. more reliable and pledges the vehicles will hit the streets soon.

"If we don't have all 30 of those ambulances that have been promised by this provider in by the end of the year, I will terminate this contract," Gray said.

The fire chief, Kenneth Ellerbe, also pledged to improve service. He noted that ambulance response times have improved over the past few months, and said it will only get better with new equipment.

"We are turning a corner, it will take us until December to get all 30 ambulances in," Ellerbe said.

Unions express skepticism

But the new vehicles did little to ease tensions with the local fire fighters union, which has been in a constant battle with Ellerbe and Gray.

"Buying apparatus and hiring people should be part of everyday business and this wouldn't even be a newsworthy event, if that was the case," said Union president Ed Smith. "Labor management is strained, almost non-existent. The membership voted 'no confidence' back in March. And recently you had the deputy mayor accuse members of 'untoward' acts."

The "untoward" acts? After a pair of ambulances caught fire on the same day, the Gray administration ordered the police to investigate whether the vehicles were damaged on purpose.

Ellerbe declined to address the issue. When asked if there is sabotage going with rank and final on the equipment, Ellerbe was terse.

"I don't want to comment on that. Thats just inflammatory and I do not want to comment on that," Ellerbe said. "We will let the investigation work its way through the process, we will be guided by the results."

Gray also reaffirmed his support for Ellerbe, who has not only battled the fire fighters union but the D.C. Council as well. Council member Mary Cheh called for Ellerbe to step down earlier this summer.

Gray dismissed the criticism from the council: "Are they qualified for the chief's job, are they applying for it?"

Cheh later responded on Twitter, writing, in her words: "I dont have to be a engineer to know if a bridge is falling apart anyone can see that the fire department is being run into the ground."

NPR

Picasso, Nazis And A Daring Escape In 'My Grandfather's Gallery'

As a little girl, Anne Sinclair knew Pablo Picasso. She talks with NPR's Scott Simon about why she didn't want the master to paint her picture, and her new memoir, My Grandfather's Gallery.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

Tech Week: Smartphone Privacy, Cyberstalking, Alibaba's Big Debut

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba makes the biggest debut on the NYSE ever. The details, and the other tech stories that piqued our interest, are in this week's roundup.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.