D.C. fire chief: 'The citizens should have confidence' in us

Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District on Friday defended its responses to two incidents this week in which ambulances were unavailable, forcing authorities to transport one man to the hospital in a fire truck and opting in another case to request an ambulance from Prince George's County.

"Our department responded as best it could," said Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, who had been publicly silent until a news conference Friday afternoon at the headquarters of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. "The citizens should have confidence."

Ellerbe's department has been under fire since Tuesday, when a D.C. police officer was injured in a hit-and-run accident. But no D.C.-operated ambulances were available to help the officer, and officials had to request one from Prince George's County.

The city is conducting an internal review of the entire episode and is exploring whether any ambulances went offline earlier than scheduled.

The officer, identified as Sean Hickman in court papers, suffered serious injuries and is recovering at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Kevin Burno, 24, has been charged in connection with the incident, which Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander said Friday appeared to be "deliberate in nature."

More questions about the fire department surfaced late Thursday, though, when firefighters took an elderly man to the hospital in a fire engine because an ambulance wasn't nearby.

Department officials praised the firefighters Friday for acting on their instincts and improvising for the patient, who was believed to be suffering from a stroke.

"That was an outstanding decision," said Deputy Fire Chief Demetrios Vlassopoulos. "The system worked the way it is supposed to."

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