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“Two’s not going to be enough. Two is a drop in the bucket,” said Mr. Smith, president of the D.C. Fire Fighters Association. “It makes perfect sense to have two units stocked and ready to go. Why wasn’t it done sooner?”

Chief Ellerbe has previously advocated for a change in ambulance staffing arrangements — a controversial plan met with skepticism by the fire union and some national emergency medical services experts — that would take all paramedic units off the streets during overnight hours in order to beef up the number of ambulances working during busier daytime hours.

Officials invoked Tuesday’s incident as fodder for endorsement of a plan that would put more ambulances on the street in peak hours.

“This is one of the reasons we have proposed the EMS redeployment plan,” Chief Ellerbe said, noting that under his plan 45 ambulances would have been available at the time of the crash. “We know we are at a tipping point in terms of providing service to the community. … It time for us to make a change in the way we deliver service.”