- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2018


While the eyes of much of the world were trained on the throngs of D.C. visitors paying their respects to George H.W. Bush, Annie Maiden was in her Northwest home.

She lived on North Capitol Street, one of the few corridors not mentioned in the detours and road closures for the Bush ceremonies.

Notice that Miss Annie is referred to in the past tense. That’s because Miss Annie, 96, died Tuesday night. In a house fire. Her own home. A row house in the 1800 block of North Capitol Street NW.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it struck me as odd that one of the first things out of the mouths of the media and fire officials was that Miss Annie’ home did not have working smoke detectors.

In fact, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Vito Maggiolo tweeted, “Working smoke detectors are key to survival in today’s fast burning blazes.”

Yes, Vito. Yes, they are.

However, smoke detectors or not, something else appears to be smoldering within FEMS.

Julia Airey is doing a great job reporting in The Washington Times about FEMS’ troubles and turmoil. (Hint, hint: It’s award-winning stuff.) And while fire officials, lawmakers and the mayor have been quietly mulling what to do about the problems, it’s time for them all to face the truth about the lack of stiff-armed leadership.

The department is short on equipment. Were Miss Annie’s neighborhood firefighters and fire trucks available? If not, why not?

Firefighters claim they dip into their own pockets to repair emergency apparatus. Why? Are the chief(s), mayor, lawmakers and deputy mayors clueless? All at the same time?

When a ferocious fire broke out at the multilevel Arthur Capper dwellings on Sept. 18, everyone was alarmed because 1) the residents were seniors and disabled, 2) the building’s fire alarms were inoperable and 3) a resident had remained in the building for five days after the fire and smoke had cleared.

So, the question is a burning one: What’s going on with D.C. FEMS?

Surely, firefighters and other first responders are sitting around playing tiddlywinks and ignoring calls. In fact, the department tweeted Wednesday that “#DcsBravest responded to 512 calls on Tuesday, December 4th. There were 170 critical and 258 noncritical EMS dispatches, along with 84 fire related incidents and other types of emergencies, including 1 fatal structure fire.”

And while that response is obviously small potatoes compared to California’s battles with Mother Nature’s wildfires and the other state and local duties, something clearly is amiss at FEMS.

Now, it could be that some disgruntled workers want to push Fire Chief Gregory Dean onto his heinie and kick him out the door, which is what happened to one of the chief’s predecessors, Ken Ellerbe, in 2013.

The smoke also could be coming from City Hall in the form of disgruntlement from union leaders, lawmakers’ attempts to undermine Mayor Muriel Bowser or from the mayor herself, who soon will settled in for another term.

In the meantime, the dirty laundry at FEMS deserves washboarding, regardless of its source.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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