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D.C. Fire Officials Admit That Problems With Fleet Persist

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D.C.'s fire department continues to have trouble tracking its fleet of vehicles.

It seemed like a simple question from Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) to the officials from the fire department: where are the city's 13 brand new ambulances? "Can you tell me, are they in the shop, do you know where your ambulances are? This is not a trick question."

The location of the new ambulances was one of several contentious issues brought up during the Council oversight hearing of the fire department, which has been scrutinized this year for the management of its fleet. A recent audit commissioned by the department found that the city's fleet of 369 fire trucks, ambulances and emergency vehicles was in "overall poor condition."

In response to questions from Wells, Chief Kenneth Ellerbe admitted only three of the 23 ladder trucks are certified and the department's only fire tower truck has been out of commission since April.

And perhaps most puzzling to Wells: why the department, given the litany of problems with its aging fleet, did not request a single dollar for new equipment in this year's capital budget.

To that question, Ellerbe told Wells that the employee in charge of the budget recently retired and it was an oversight.

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