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Chief Ellerbe faced tough questioning from council member Tommy Wells at a hearing in April over the condition of aging ambulances and whether the fleet would be able to stand up to high summer temperatures. At the time, the chief said the department was proactively inspecting and fixing units.

“Our mechanics are looking at every unit that comes down to the shop and attempting to address all of the air conditioning issues before the weather gets hot,” Chief Ellerbe said at the time.

He later added, “I’m confident in our equipment and I’m confident in our personnel.”

The department announced Tuesday that an outside company has begun an audit to examine its current fleet capacity and management practices. The audit costs more than $182,000 and results are expected in two months, officials said.

In coming weeks, the department is set to receive 13 new ambulances which could alleviate some of the stress on the older units. But union officials worry that without a proper apparatus replacement plan, these ambulances will also be quickly run down.

“The bottom line is it’s just another sad chapter in a fire and EMS department that has gone bad,” Mr. Smith said.