Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe — coming off a tough month of March that included continued questions about the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department’s fleet readiness — appeared on WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour Friday to reassure the public of his department’s ability to serve the public.
While the statistics were not particular reassuring — “We have 10 trucks that aren’t working, we have 20 engines that aren’t working, and we have approximately 51 ambulances that aren’t working” — Ellerbe said he is committed to improving department operations, including hiring consultants to improve fleet management, and that the department brass’s relationship with the firefighters’ union is “cooling off” after a tense period.
Ellerbe also addressed perceptions that he is being “protected” by Mayor Vincent C. Gray — someone whom, while not a close friend, he has known for a long time, a 2011 interview played on air by co-host Tom Sherwood made clear.
“I don’t believe that if my performance fails that I will still have a job,” Ellerbe said.
Also: For some historical perspective on the department’s recent woes, check out this compilation of old news clips posted Friday by ex-WUSA-TV reporter Dave Statter. Sadly, problems with the FEMS fleet — and many other aspects of department operations — go back a lot further than a month.