D.C. fire union chief calls sabotage claim ‘nuts’

Although the March 5 incident again opened rifts, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul A. Quander Jr. said he doesn’t think that department employees will be unduly punished.

“I think the process will work. It’s the same process for everyone,” Mr. Quander said. “I have seen nothing that leads me to believe the process is inequitable.”

Fire officials have also accused employees of orchestrating a “sick out” on New Year’s Eve — when 100 firefighters called out — leaving the department short-staffed and the night concluding with the death of a man who had to wait 40 minutes for an ambulance to transport him to a hospital. The union has denied that the call outs were part of any organized effort.

Amid debate between the sides over the readiness of the department fleet, Chief Ellerbe offered an olive branch of sorts — thanking the union for exposing a mistake in the department’s fire apparatus record keeping. The chief had testified before the D.C. Council on Feb. 20, citing a list of apparatus that the union later proved was incorrect as some of the equipment had been sold or was not in service.

But now even that gratitude has come into question as the inspector general’s report — which outlines the deficiencies in the fleet — states that it was provided to the department on Feb. 19, the day before the chief testified to the contrary.

Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, told The Associated Press that the development “certainly undermines my confidence in the management of the fire department.”

“If they used the information that they provided me that said the reserve trucks are available when they’re not even in the District of Columbia and we don’t even own them anymore, then that tells me there’s a massive breakdown of administrative competence.”

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