D.C. Fire Chief Proposes another Controversial Ambulance Plan

Plan takes firefighters off of engine and ladder truck to staff additional ambulances

 

 
 
 

PAUL WAGNER, MyFoxDC | | Friday, April 11, 2014


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D.C. Fire Chief Proposes another Controversial Ambulance Plan

Staffing change will leave immediate neighborhood without fire apparatus.
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WASHINGTON (MyFoxDC) - D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has come up with a new ambulance redeployment plan. It is now under review by the D.C. council, which has scheduled a public hearing for Friday.

The last proposal was so controversial, every lawmaker voted against it.

The new strategy may create just as much fuss with plans to take the firefighting equipment away from neighborhoods that are growing by the day.

Chief Ellerbe will be the first to tell you the job of firefighter has changed considerably in the last several years. There are far fewer fires and so many more calls for EMS. In fact, the chief says 80 percent of the calls for service are now for emergency medical services.

In order to handle that, the chief says he has come up with a new strategy that will add ambulances in the city, but leave the Shaw and Mount Vernon Square communities without a truck and engine.

The first thing you need to know about this proposal is that there are no plans to close the firehouse on New Jersey Avenue.

The chief says it will still be staffed around the clock, but the engine and ladder truck and the firefighters who staff them will no longer be stationed there.

"We know that we need more EMS coverage in the city and that's an area that we feel has a centrally located station that allows us to deliver much better EMS care throughout the city,” said Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe in an interview Thursday. “Now we still have to talk to the neighborhood about that.”

Instead of the ladder and engine, the chief’s strategy would be to staff several ambulances and medics in the same firehouse.

It is a plan the chief says makes some sense.

"That facility is close to New Jersey Avenue, Florida Avenue, the freeway so we can provide resources to Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and parts of Northwest from that fire station," Ellerbe said.

But as you can imagine, losing a ladder truck and engine has the community concerned.

Rachelle Nigro is the local ANC commissioner.

"I need to know the parameters,” she said. “In terms of the boundaries and the existing firehouses that will serve the community, the timing of when a call happens, when will they get there, I think that's important.”

Commissioner Nigro says in the last day or so, many of her constituents said they wanted the ladder and engine to stay.

As for the firefighters union, President Ed Smith says they intend to fight it.

"Yes, absolutely,” Smith said. “I mean, literally when I say seconds count, seconds count. We are in the business of saving lives and this is important. It’s important for the neighborhood. It’s important for the firefighters assigned to that house. We are going to stand up.”

Just over a year and a half ago, Smith says that same ladder truck was used to rescue residents of a nearby apartment complex. It was a fire so intense, it burned the top of the ladder.

In the chief’s last proposal -- the one voted down unanimously by the council -- all of the medic units would have been taken off the street after midnight.

The new plan would add ambulance resources and keep them staffed around the clock.

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D.C. Fire Chief Proposes another Controversial Ambulance Plan


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