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D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe will step down and retire from his post next month, the mayor announced in a release this morning. Ellerbe has been at the helm of the fire department since January 2011 and has served in the department for more than 30 years.
His three-year tenure as chief has been marred by controversy, including faulty ambulances and slow response times.
Recently, Ellerbe’s leadership and the department have come under fire after rescue workers failed to come to the aid of an elderly man who collapsed and later died outside a fire station. Councilmember Tommy Wells called for the chief’s resignation in the wake of the incident. Councilmember Mary Cheh has also called for his resignation.
Ellerbe told the Post, which broke the story last night, that he was retiring of his own volition and is not being ousted. But while mayor Vince Gray has supported the chief throughout the controversies, mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and David Catania have said they would not keep Ellerbe in his post if elected.
“This was a dream for me when I became a firefighter in 1982. I will be eternally grateful to Mayor Gray for believing in me. He showed tremendous strength and fortitude in allowing me to do this job,” Ellerbe said in the release. “I’ve checked all the boxes of the things I said I would do when I was hired: cadet program, paramedic training program, fleet improvement and controlling overtime…Very quietly, we’ve modernized the Department. I have no regrets.”
When Ellerbe leaves July 2, Assistant Chief Eugene Jones will be promoted to interim fire chief and take over the 2,000-person department.
“I’d like to thank Chief Ellerbe for all his years of service to the people of our city,” Gray said in the release. “His effort and dedication have been commendable, and I wish him well in all his future endeavors.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery