- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

D.C. officials have allocated $12 million from the city's emergency fund to Fire and Emergency Medical Services for upgrades to firehouses and the purchases of vehicles and special equipment.
Deputy Mayor Margaret Nedelkoff Kellems made the announcement Friday during remarks at a graduation ceremony for 74 new D.C. firefighters and paramedics.
Mrs. Kellems said the funds also would pay for additional hazardous materials equipment and an urban search-and-rescue team for the city.
The news came as a surprise to the heads of both the firefighters and paramedics unions, who said they had not been informed of any meetings to discuss spending priorities.
"This is the first I've heard about it," said Kenneth Lyons, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3721, which represents the city's medics.
D.C. Firefighters Association President Raymond Sneed thanked Mrs. Kellems during his remarks to the graduating class and urged that the money be delivered without bureaucratic delay.
Mrs. Kellems returned to the podium to say that the money had been delivered.
"We're spending it now," she said.
Lt. Sneed later questioned whether the funds would get lost covering operational shortfalls, including the lavish graduation ceremony at the grand ballroom of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, which sources said cost around $5,000.
The last D.C. Fire and EMS graduation ceremony was held this summer in a U.S. Park Police helicopter hangar at Bolling Air Force Base.
Friday's three-hour ceremony included a band of bagpipers, which played as several hundred guests entered the ballroom. Each of the graduates was presented with a helmet and a badge. The badge was pinned on the graduate by a family member or friend.
The 12-week class was interrupted when students were sent into the field to serve on ambulances in an effort to cover for departmental budget and staffing shortages.
Chief Ronnie Few encouraged the class to look past tradition to the future and said his New Year's resolution was to unite the fire and emergency medical branches of the service into one department. Emergency medical personnel are currently civilians.
Before the chief spoke to the crowd, he joked about an incident that pitted a group of D.C. firefighters against their suburban counterparts.
"Anyone from the Arlington Fire Department? Good, we don't have to have anyone watch your equipment outside," the chief said, alluding to charges that D.C. firefighters tried to take gear owned by Arlington County during the terror attack on the Pentagon.

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