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Relations between fire department brass and the rank-and-file are so bad that Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander has called in the police.
Quander has asked the Metropolitan Police Department to investigate whether anything “untoward” lead to two ambulances catching fire yesterday. Speaking to reporters this morning, Quander poked around the possibility of intradepartment sabotage without actually saying it.
“Since you’ve been in the District of Columbia, how many incidents are you aware of where two fire engines or two fire apparatuses have caught fire on the same day, within a three hour period?” Quander asked a reporter. “Any?”
Former fire department spokesman Lon Walls, who is no longer with the agency, took Quander’s idea a little further, tweeting, “if you think that 2 ambulances catching fire on the same day is a coincidence, got a bridge to sell you.”
In a press release, fire union boss Ed Smith called the idea that department members could be sabotaging ambulances “unfounded.”
Quander acknowledged that the incident in which an ambulance in the presidential motorcade ran out of gasoline represents a “problem” for the department’s image nationally. Quander promised to hold both fire chief Kenneth Ellerbe and the ambulance’s operators accountable.
Update, 3:00 p.m.: Councilmember Tommy Wells says his judiciary and public safety committee will take up the ambulance issue when the D.C. Council returns in the fall. In the meantime, Wells says the accusations of sabotage require a public response from Mayor Vince Gray (whose job, incidentally, Wells is running for).
“That really calls for the mayor to step in and straighten this out,” Wells says.