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At least four District fire department ambulances were “repaired” by replacing their heat shields with no-parking signs like the one above, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander is expected to acknowledge in a statement this evening.

Two of the ambulances have already been repaired, Quander says in a release. The clumsy repairs were made in July.

The news comes after a series of embarrassing incidents for the ambulance fleet, including two ambulances catching fire yesterday and an ambulance in the presidential motorcade running out of gas. Neither of the two ambulances that caught fire contained the makeshift heat shields, according to Quander.

The issue was brought to the fire department’s attention by a fire union official, but it wasn’t passed on to top brass, according to Quander. “The official that it was brought to did not take immediate action,” Quander says in the statement.

The unusual repairs were first publicized by fire union president Ed Smith in a press release this morning. “They need to ‘fess up to the crappy repairs that are putting the public at risk,” Smith tells LL.

Quander’s full press release:

Aluminum signs that were temporarily installed in some D.C. Fire and Emergency Services (FEMS) ambulances are being removed from the vehicles, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander said.

When FEMS ambulances were brought in for service last month because of air conditioning failures caused by the heatwave, aluminum signs were placed in the engine compartments of some of the vehicles to serve temporarily as heat shields. An official from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 36 informed a FEMS official of this on Monday, Aug. 12. “But the official that it was brought to did not take immediate action,” Deputy Mayor Quander said.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was asked late Tuesday to investigate two reports of fires in ambulances earlier that day. Police were made aware of the aluminum sign situation, and MPD said late Wednesday that it does not appear that either of the ambulances involved had these signs in their engine compartments.

“One of the reasons we wanted MPD is to get independent eyes and ears involved,” Quander said.

As of late Wednesday, four ambulances had been found to have these alterations, and two of them already were back in service after the alterations were removed and new materials safely installed.

Correction: This story incorrectly described the Department of Public Works as typically performing maintenance on DCFEMS vehicles. 

Photo courtesy IAFF 36