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As the freelance writer who broke the Julia Rusinek story in the InTowner newspaper, I want to applaud the fine writing of Jonathan Agronsky (“Call for Help,” 2/9). The tragic death of this woman is also a story of incompetence by members of the D.C. Fire Department. I live in the neighborhood, and I know for a fact that there are good men and women assigned to the U Street NW station, but clearly there are also some whose lack of commitment to their jobs may have contributed to an otherwise avoidable death. We’ll never know.
Agronsky took the story to the next level with his in-depth research. It was a fine testimonial to a young woman who wanted to make a contribution to our society. It was also a reminder that although there may be some new leadership in the fire department, the task of reform is daunting. When punishment for inferior performance is promotion, one is left to wonder whether the desire to make improvements permeates much beyond the fire chief. With this most unfortunate event not having occurred on his watch, wouldn’t it have been refreshing to have some open and forthright communication about the shortcomings and what is being done to ensure it does not happen again? But I guess that is too much to hope for.
As to Franklin E. Kameny’s letter to the editor (2/23) and his suggestion that D.C. needs separate fire and emergency medical services, I believe it is he who misses the big picturesuch as where the District is going to get the millions and millions of dollars needed to fund the two separate services. In fact, what he suggests has been tried before, and it did not work. All over the country, we have combined fire and rescue services that deliver outstanding service in a timely and cost-effective manner. That could happen here in D.C. if the city recruited motivated people, properly trained them, and fired those who do not perform up to generally accepted standards.