- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty called on Mayor Anthony A. Wiliams yesterday to "stop waiting" for Fire Chief Ronnie Few to resign and to fire him.

Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said the fire department's resume scandal is minor compared with its failures in management, personnel and modernizing facilities. He is concerned that Mr. Williams has not publicly addressed the employment status of Chief Few and three of his top assistants.

"We need to stop this conversation about whether we're giving him enough. … Everybody knows the mayor wants him to resign … but the mayor should honestly fire Chief Few so we can move on," he said.

"The lack of accountability at the top levels of the fire department has gone on for too long."

Mr. Fenty criticized Chief Few while standing outside the city's oldest firehouse, Engine 22, on Georgia Avenue. The station, which has been in service for 105 years, is also in the worst shape, despite available funding to renovate the building, Mr. Fenty said. Chief Few provided no funds for that in the 2003 budget.

Capt. Mike Donlon, who runs Engine 22, said the doors to the truck bays are too small. Frequently, he said, drivers accidently scrape the outer walls while backing in, damaging the brick facade and the trucks.

Mr. Fenty said Engine 22's story is one that can be heard at firehouses throughout the city.

He said that on Monday he will be circulating a letter to the council, calling for them to formally ask Mr. Williams to fire Chief Few.

Meanwhile, continuing problems with the department's 800-megahertz digital radios hampered fire-scene operations at two fires in the past week.

During a two-alarm fire Sunday morning at a house in the 1300 block of Emerson St. NW, a firefighter working in an attic fell through the floor. He was not injured, but his radio failed when he called for help. Firefighters working nearby heard him scream and were able to assist.

The house was empty when the fire occurred, and no one was hurt.

During a basement fire Thursday night at a row house in the 900 block of Farragut Street NW, firefighters said they could not communicate with crews inside.

A "communications company," which is supposed to relay messages on the analog channel over short distances, arrived but could not communicate with other firefighters in their line of sight as close as 40 feet away.

Firefighters kept the fire from reaching the upper floors, and the lone occupant of the house was not hurt. Foot messengers relayed communications.

Mr. Fenty also mentioned a fire just a week ago at the home of Sen. Evan Bayh. The first-arriving pumper truck had a faulty water pump, and another truck was not available. The electrical fire at the Indiana Democrat's home in the 5700 block of Tilden Street Northwest caused about $150,000 in damage

"We have hazmat training issues; we need new or renovated facilities. It's a laundry list of problems," Mr. Fenty said.

But he said he is even more concerned with the "virtually nonexistent" reserve fleet of trucks for the department.

Mr. Fenty said Chief Few has promised the council three times that he would order more trucks.

"At our most recent hearing, he told us the reserve fleet was under control, but after more questioning he admitted he hadn't ordered a single truck," Mr. Fenty said.

Capt. Donlon said things have improved at the firehouse in the last year.

"We have a contractor in here repairing the ceiling and leaks in the upstairs showers, and we have gotten new secure windows," Capt. Donlon said.

Two upstairs showers had leaked water into the kitchen and sitting room, destroying the ceiling. Capt. Donlon said that last year several radios and other equipment were stolen because of unsecured and ungated windows.

"We can now leave the windows open to ventilate the garage," he said.

The air conditioners are operating at 50 percent, with summer looming, Capt. Donlon said.

He and his firefighters had to do some of the repairs to the kitchen and sitting room, sometimes paying out of pocket.

Even with the repairs, Capt. Donlon said, "We really need to move out of here and get a new facility somewhere else on this block."

But he said top officials have not taken that option seriously.


Matthew Cella contributed to this report.

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