DC Councilmember Mary Cheh calls on Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe t - Fox 2 News Headlines

DC Councilmember Mary Cheh calls on Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe to step down

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D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe
D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh
WASHINGTON -

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh wants the fire chief to step down.

The Ward 3 representative and member of the judiciary committee says Kenneth Ellerbe is managing the department into the ground and she thinks it is time for him to go.

Cheh is the first elected official to call for the fire chief’s resignation, citing a recent report from Committee Chairman Tommy Wells highlighting the department’s recent failures.

Cheh says the report was a “devastating indictment” of the current administration and Ellerbe should resign.

But the executive branch is refusing to buckle, and on Tuesday defended the chief who has been under constant pressure from the D.C. city council for at least the last six months over the way he has handled ambulance delays, staff shortages and erroneous information on the size of his fleet.

Cheh says she has had enough.

"I think by negligence or indifference, [he] has been running the department into the ground,” said Cheh. “He hasn't filled positions that need to be filled. He couldn't even identify the kinds of equipment that he has or what is needed or what needs to be repaired.”

Last week after Ward 6 representative Tommy Wells’ report to the committee on the ambulance redeployment plan was made public, Cheh said the chief’s job was on the bubble, but she stopped just short of calling for his resignation.

"I do recall having conversations with members of FEMS over the course of time and the confidence and enthusiasm of his line workers, it's nonexistent," Cheh said.

But Paul Quander, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, defended the chief by saying the public safety demands of the city are being met.

"There have been a number of things that have been done that may be out of the public eye,” said Quander. “But there is progress. One of the things we've done since March is we've really improved the times in our responses on our calls.”

The deputy mayor says more than 30 firefighter-EMTs are now being trained to become paramedics. A consultant has come on board to help the department with its depleted and outdated fleet, and 14 new ambulances are on the way.

"That's why I can say that we have made progress,” he said. “There is traction and momentum is beginning to build. I think we are on the right track and I am not willing to recommend to the mayor any change."

Councilmember Wells stopped just short of joining Cheh, instead saying everyone in the administration is "on notice" and he wants to see a clear plan on how the fire department is going to get the job done.

In his report to the council last week, Wells said emergency medical services were in a crisis and he had no confidence the fire department could pull off its ambulance redeployment plan.

It is a plan that would shift resources from overnight to daytime.

Well says the staffing and equipment to do it just isn't there.


Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has issued the following statement following D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh’s call for the resignation of Fire/EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe:

“The District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department is in a much better position and operating more effectively now than when Chief Kenneth Ellerbe took the helm in January 2011, “ said Quander, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice.

“Many of the incidents that Chief Ellerbe has dealt with during his tenure have been rooted in issues that preceded his hiring as chief. In three decades with the department, he has gotten a deep understanding of the issues and challenges that FEMS faces.

“In two-and-an-half years under his leadership, he has taken action to deal with many of those issues. As problem arise, they have been met with careful consideration and action to improve the department and better serve the residents of the District of Columbia. Moves to shorten ambulance response times have been made, and more lie ahead. The department’s vehicle fleet is in better order, with reserve units ready to roll when they’re needed. A work group comprised of citizens, firefighters and members of several city agencies will soon be making recommendations on how FEMS can further improve services.

“There is still work that needs to get done to make the department the best it can be. I support Chief Ellerbe is his efforts to make that happen,” Deputy Mayor Quander concluded. “We should stay the course.”

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