Police to investigate two fires aboard D.C. ambulances

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The fire department maintains 94 ambulances, though not all are functional, with 39 units on the street at any given time.

The department’s ability to respond to emergencies, as well as the state of its beleaguered fleet, has come under repeated scrutiny this year after a series of ambulance breakdowns and staffing issues. In addition to several high-profile incidents when ambulances have not been able to respond to emergency calls, the fire chief acknowledged in March that the department had been operating for more than a year with an outdated list of department apparatus that included vehicles that had been sold or scrapped.

A total of 67 ambulances had to be taken out of service for repairs during one week in July after high temperatures caused the ambulances’ air conditioning units to break down.

The department is undergoing an audit that will evaluate the state of the city’s fleet and propose recommendations for maintenance and other oversight. Officials are also in the process of buying additional ambulances.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, has addressed the ambulance issues in a series of hearings this year. The Ward 6 Democrat said he’s seeking a meeting with Mr. Quander and Chief Ellerbe within the next 48 hours on the recent incidents and that additional steps need to be taken.

“I believe this requires more than my attention, it requires the mayor’s attention,” he said.

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