I am a lieutenant with the D.C. Fire Department (DCFD), and I was recently interviewed for “Burn, Baby, Burn” (8/30). It is my opinion that the author displayed a lack of respect toward the members of the fire department, who risk their lives daily in an effort to protect the citizens of the city, with little regard for their own safety and lives. I was personally outraged by the headline statements such as “putting out fires…is not [their] specialty.”
I am astonished at the author’s disrespect for the backbone of the DCFD, the overworked, underpaid firefighters. These are the ones out on the street, day in and day out, no matter the weather or time of day, who continually put their lives on the line for you and anyone who resides in or visits this city. I tried to portray that message to the author, but she must have felt it was not newsworthy (i.e., to sell newspapers). The misconceptions in the article that need to be addressed are as follows:
1.) “If you’re trapped inside a burning building, don’t waste your time.” While serving the department I have witnessed some of the most astonishing and heroic acts of bravery anyone could imagine. Every year, the DCFD, along with the D.C. Board of Trade, honors the members of this department who went above and beyond the call of duty to rescue victims from burning buildings. I would guarantee you that if you compared the DCFD to the neighboring jurisdictional fire departments, you would learn that we make more rescues in a year than those other departments all combined make in two years. I trust my own life in the hands of the members of this department and assure you, you can, too.
2.) “The firefighters who leap from the trucks will be poorly trained.” All members of our department must complete over three months of training from the fire department academy, which is an accredited institution, before they can even ride a firetruck. Many of our members have associate degrees or better in the fields of fire science or fire administration. There is a great deal of specialized training that we would like to have, and indeed should have; however, the money is not there. Many members find themselves paying hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to attend those classes, in many cases on their own time.
3.) “Engine 10 and Truck 13’s seedy station.” Like most of the other firehouses in the city, ours is in deplorable shape. But that is not due to the lack of effort put forth by the firefighters. These diligent firefighters spent their own personal time and used their own money to make that seedy firehouse as livable as possible. The musky odor the author talks about is the smell of soot from fires that stains the walls as well as the clothes of those men. The author also failed to mention the numerous company citations that line the back wall of our firehouse or, more importantly, the plaques that hang in the firehouse that are dedicated to the two members of that house that gave their lives to protect the citizens of the community. I am honored and privileged to be able to serve with the men who live in that “seedy” firehouse.
I assure you that despite the problems that plague the department, we remain the most aggressive fire department in this area. When it comes to fighting fires, we forget all the politics, the bad publicity, the substandard operating conditions, and do the job we love to do.
To the author of this article: Yes, we have problems in our department. But casting a negative image to the public is not helping to solve any problems—only create new ones.
To the citizens of the District of Columbia: Please continue to support your fire department and never settle for anything but the best. Demand modern fire equipment with maximum manning and training. This allows the fire department to do the best job for you! Also, demand that your department be fully funded at all times so we can provide you with the best service possible.
To all my co-workers: Continue to do the great job that you are out there doing every day, despite the barricades. And last but not least, always remember, in unity there is strength.
DCFD Engine Co. 10
Member Local 36 D.C. Firefighters Association