There is new information in the ongoing troubles inside the D.C. Fire and EMS department. FOX 5 has obtained a document and a picture that shows the department's reserve fleet of ambulances is not what leaders claim it to be.
D.C.'s fire chief told the D.C. Council Thursday his department is in an "acceptable state of readiness for major events" while the deputy mayor for public safety said the department is prepared if ambulances break down.
The deputy mayor repeatedly told the council the department has four ambulances held in reserve and said they had been in place since just after March 5 when an injured D.C. police officer waited 20 minutes for an ambulance.
But according to an internal document obtained by FOX 5, not one fully-stocked reserve was ready Thursday when a crew needed one.
Approximately three hours before Paul Quander sat down to testify before the city council, the crew of Ambulance 16 went to the fleet maintenance shop in Southwest D.C. where they were told to get into reserve Ambulance 627.
According to the internal document, the crew told a supervisor, "This unit was not fully stocked and one compartment appeared to be used as a trash can ... there was oxygen however it was low and needed to be replaced. The unit had less than a half a tank of fuel and the cot had a pile of equipment thrown on top of it.”
The document says the crew got in the rig, but "It seemed to be in worse shape (than) the one we had just switched out of.”
As the crew waited for another reserve, Quander was repeatedly claiming the department had four ambulances ready to go.
"A minimum of four ambulances are kept stocked and available at FEMS fleet maintenance for ambulances that go out of service for more than 30 minutes due to mechanical problems,” he said. “Those units are fully available, they're stocked.”
Later in the hearing at the Wilson Building, Quander said it again.
"We have placed four ambulances that are there ready to go,” said Quander. “All we have to do is turn the key and bring some equipment, the bag and the laptop.”
But the crew of Ambulance 16 did not get a working reserve until 3:30 p.m.
The third they were told to get into that day.
During Thursday’s hearing, the chief told the council the department has 111 ambulances. 39 are in service, 46 are out of service and 19 are in reserve.
The department is currently conducting an audit of the fleet after FOX 5 revealed the numbers the department was claiming were false.
The chief admitted Thursday he had been managing the department for about a year with numbers that did not add up. It is an admission Councilmember Tommy Wells seized upon, calling it an "incredibly serious issue.”
Deputy Mayor Quander has issued the following response to FOX 5:
The logistics involved to prepare a reserve ambulance can be a lengthy process. Our goal is to have four reserve ambulances available at all times, but an ebb and flow effect often occurs as reserve units are called into service. It's a difficult task, but I am certain that the staff members at D.C. Fire and EMS who are primarily responsible will continue to do it consistently.
Deputy Mayor Quander also has extended an invitation to you to visit the fleet facility to examine a reserve unit this evening.
Thank you for your inquiry.
DC Fire Fighters Local 36 Press Release Reaction to FOX 5's story:
How disappointing to turn on the TV and once again learn our Fire/EMS Chief isn't doing his job. In addition he has again deceived the City Council and the citizens into believing our firefighters and paramedics have the resources they need to respond to emergencies. When will the Chief be held accountable?
Because Chief Ellerbe didn't do his job the citizens again suffered. The chief wasted their tax money and our most valuable resource, our firefighters and medics, keeping them from answering 911 calls for hours until they could find a working ambulance.
As Chairman Mendelson and Councilmember Wells pointed out very clearly the Chief and Deputy Mayor refuse to take responsibility for the system they run. All of these problems are the results of their policies and misguided priorities.
Having reserve ambulances at the ready isn't complicated as Deputy Mayor Quander would have you believe. It's basic. And once again our Fire/EMS Chief can't do the basics of the job.