Firetruck re­pair leaves neigh­bor­hood vul­ner­a­ble

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA AIREY

A D.C. fire truck whose lad­der be­came stuck dur­ing a three-alarm fire in Septem­ber failed again last week, leav­ing Eastern Mar­ket with­out its ser­vices for 2½ days.

The D.C. Fire and EMS Depart­ment (FEMS) lacked a re­place­ment for Truck 7 as it was be­ing re­paired Thurs­day through Satur­day, two depart­ment sources told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The truck’s crew took it to the depart­ment’s re­pair shop af­ter find­ing leaks in its hy­draulic sys­tem, the sources said. But what should have been a 24-hour re­pair stretched into 72 hours when firefighters dis­cov­ered that the hy­draulic pres­sure was so high it could have trig­gered the lad­der to ex­tend while the truck was be­ing driven.

Mean­while, a van pro­vided to the crew to drive back to the sta­tion broke down, the sources said.

Cit­ing five FEMS sources, The Times first re­ported Mon­day that the fire depart­ment has lagged in pur­chas­ing new ve­hi­cles and has al­lowed a back­log of re­pair or­ders to grow.

Truck 7’s lad­der had failed dur­ing the Sept. 19 fire at the Arthur Cap­per Se­nior Pub­lic Hous­ing build­ing. As Truck 7 sat in the shop for an ex­tra night last week, its crew couldn’t as­sist with a two-alarm fire in Congress Heights on Fri­day evening, said the two depart­ment sources.

Ad­vi­sory Neigh­bor­hood Com­mis­sion­ers said they were un­aware of the truck’s is­sues be­fore be­ing con­tacted by The Times.

Com­mis­sioner Kirsten Olden­burg said she was “quite con­cerned” to hear her com­mu­nity lacked full fire pro­tec­tion, “be­cause you don’t ever know when some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen.”

“What is the mayor’s plan to fix the main­te­nance back­log?” said Com­mis­sioner Denise Krepp.

Nei­ther Mayor Muriel Bowser nor Kevin Don­ahue, deputy mayor for pub­lic safety, re­sponded to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment.

A fire depart­ment spokesman de­clined to com­ment. The Times re­ported Mon­day that a re­view of a ran­dom sam­ple of fleet con­di­tion re­ports from 20 days in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber found that the depart­ment had no lad­der trucks in re­serve for any of those days.

Un­der FEMS Spe­cial Or­der 2007-66, the depart­ment is re­quired to keep nine lad­ders in re­serve to re­place ve­hi­cles in need of re­pair or to pro­vide wa­ter sup­port.

“My con­science has been shaken,” said D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Demo­crat and mem­ber of the Safety Com­mit­tee.

Ms. Cheh said that Capi­tol Hill go­ing with­out proper pro­tec­tion left her “very dis­turbed.”

The five FEMS sources cited slow re­pair work by un­cer­ti­fied me­chan­ics and the depart­ment’s fail­ure to ad­here to reg­u­larly sched­uled ve­hi­cle pur­chases as part of the prob­lem.

A FEMS spokesman has told The Times that two of the re­pair shop’s 23 me­chan­ics have com­pleted train­ing for their Emer­gency Ve­hi­cle Tech­ni­cian Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

City leg­is­la­tors in 2016 en­acted a law re­quir­ing that all of the shop’s me­chan­ics be cer­ti­fied by Oc­to­ber 2019.

“Any­time we don’t have full cov­er­age of our fire­fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, I’m very con­cerned,” said coun­cil mem­ber Charles Allen, Ward 6 Demo­crat and chair­man of the Safety Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Allen, who rep­re­sents the Capi­tol Hill neigh­bor­hood, said he wants to fund a new me­chanic shop “much sooner than the cur­rent time­line.”

Mr. Allen and Ms. Cheh noted that the District has in­creased the depart­ment’s ve­hi­cle pur­chas­ing bud­get.

How­ever, the $99 mil­lion, six-year bud­get falls short of in­de­pen­dent au­di­tors’ rec­om­men­da­tions for what’s needed to re­store the fleet and keep pace with the city’s grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.