Monday’s union vote — held at the labor group’s main hall in Northeast Washington — was the third time during the tenure of six fire chiefs that Local 36 has expressed no confidence in leadership, dating back to 1996. It bears no legal significance, but it puts the chief under added scrutiny.
Smith, the union head, said a routine meeting attracts about 50 firefighters. He called Monday’s turnout of more than 300 unprecedented and noted that 350 firefighters who were on duty at the time could not attend.
(Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST) - DC Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe
Inspector General’s report on D.C. fire department
The union’s vote came three days after a report by D.C. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby found that the department is supposed to have 12 engines ready to deploy in its reserve fleet. On July 12, fire officials listed all as available. But investigators found that only one engine was capable of responding to a fire.
The department also is supposed to have 31 ambulances on reserve, and on July 22, at least 21 were out of service, the report found. Three of them were in the repair shop for extended periods of time — 794, 664 and 257 days.
At a storage facility on Gallatin Street NE, the inspector general found only two of the 10 reserve engines that were supposed to be housed there, and neither would start. Only two of eight trucks were there, the report says, and one wouldn’t start and the other was out of service because of a broken ladder.
The inspector general said many supervisors complained about an inadequate reserve fleet, that firefighters were routinely sent home because there weren’t enough vehicles to staff and that repairs were often poorly done. The report notes that numerous attempts failed to fix air conditioners in ambulances, resulting in temperatures soaring to 120 degrees in compartments and rendering many paramedics ill.
“Deficiencies in the quality and timeliness of repairs and replacements reduces the number of vehicles available for both frontline service and large-scale emergencies and mobilizations,” the inspector general’s report found. “This impedes their ability to respond to neighborhood emergencies . . . which obviously can affect the quality of emergency services provided to District residents.”