In a FOX 5 follow-up to an ongoing controversy over uniforms in the D.C. fire department, a D.C. firefighter has been place on administrative leave for wearing the wrong logo on his jacket.
When changes were made to the logo on uniforms of D.C. firefighters, Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe warned he would discipline anyone who wore the old logo. It was a matter of uniformity.
On Tuesday, Lt. Robert Alvarado was sent home because of his coat.
Alvarado said it has much more to do with the uniform change, but that the action taken Tuesday was about retaliation.
Alvarado's jacket with the old "DCFD" logo is what caused the uproar. Alvarado wore it at the D.C. fire training school early Tuesday.
“It was about 35 degrees outside. The training school is out of public view, so I was wearing a blue DCFD coat I had in order to stay warm,” he said. “He told me I'd have to remove my coat. I said I had nothing to wear. He told me I'm being insubordinate and sent me home.”
Alvarado said he has tried to get another jacket, but the department isn't issuing them. Instead, firefighters are being told to wear the coats they use when they are sent out on calls. He said his is filthy with drywall, dust and soot from a recent fire.
“Got toxins, carcinogens, it's not something you should be wearing. It's designed to be in structure fires, not to be worn as a winter coat,” Alvarado said.
The D.C. firefighters union has fought against the uniform changes, calling them unnecessarily expensive.
Firefighters turned their backs on the fire chief during his recent state of the department speech.
Alvarado has been among the most outspoken about the situation. He suspected it might result in retaliation. He believes in this case that he is being singled out. And he says it goes beyond just this, to a bigger issue of a pattern of intimidation and threats from the top down.
“I want to be able to come to work and not have to be afraid of more than dying on the job,” said Alvarado. “To have extra stress added on to an already stressful job by a hostile fire chief.”
When asked for D.C. Fire and EMS to respond to this matter, Chief Ellerbe sent us the following statement:
"This is a personnel matter. The department does not make public comments regarding personnel matters."