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As described in the video above by WTTG-TV/Fox 5 reporter Paul Wagner, there was a new adventure in public/press relations in the Nation's Capital in recent days. During multiple calls to those in charge of dealing with reporters, Wagner says he was told this consultant's report on the state of the DC Fire & EMS Department's fleet did not exist. Of course only a few hours after that claim, The Washington Post described the results of that report in detail. Here's Wagner's summary:
A new consultant’s report is painting a very dim picture of the D.C. Fire Department’s fleet of vehicles and the way it has procured and repaired them over the years.
The report, which two city officials said didn’t exist as of Monday night, is 214 pages long and validates long-standing complaints from the firefighters union.
The report found:
- The fire departments fleet of vehicles is in "overall poor condition."
- The fleet is in a "critical state."
- The neglect spans 15 to 20 years.
- There is poor oversight by management.
The report goes on to say a software maintenance program is vastly underused, uniformed personnel should not be in charge and the entire process should be outsourced to civilian managers.
After Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe gave a presentation to the D.C. Council Tuesday morning, FOX 5 was able to briefly question him on the report.
"We told them that we expected to see the challenges they identified in the report. There were 129 recommendations,” said Ellerbe. “We are going to compare those recommendations with other reports that we’ve received, develop a matrix, and make sure all of the recommendations that necessarily fit into our department and our ability to provide service to the city, are managed and met. It's going to take time and we have some short-term challenges, long-term challenges and mid-term challenges. They gave us some short-term , some mid-term solutions and some long-term solutions and we are going to see if we can get them implemented.”
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who has oversight of the fire department, was given the report Monday night and called it an indictment of fleet management and maintenance.
"It shows that there is not an accountable system seeing that they are repaired, accounted for and they are replaced,” said Wells, who is a Democratic candidate for mayor. “Now I know finally the administration is starting to buy new ambulances, buying new fire trucks. I’m not convinced at all, especially after reading this report, that they have a system to now manage and maintain them and to know when they need to buy more.”
Ed Smith, President of the firefighter’s union, had only seen a summary of the report when we talked to him outside the Wilson Building.
"These are things that the union has been sounding the alarm for the last three years and it’s taken a consultant report, a considerable amount of time and three years later for these recommendations to be finally be put to paper,” he said.
Since last March, FOX 5 has documented story after story about the poor condition of the fleet, ladder trucks that failed inspection, ambulances that suddenly caught on fire and ambulances that broke down while transporting patients.
Next week, Wells will hold a hearing on the fleet and says he wants to hear how the chief plans to move forward.
And we plan on staying with this story, and will continue to ask questions and push for results.