D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe Announces Retirement

Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. (Courtesy Photo)
Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe. (Courtesy Photo)

Washington, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe announced June 5 that he will retire in July following 30 years of service to the city, counting among his achievements the establishment of several programs intended to increase the safety of its residents.

“I’d like to thank Chief Ellerbe for all his years of service to the people of our city,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray. “His effort and dedication have been commendable, and I wish him well in all his future endeavors.”

Ellerbe, an African American and native Washingtonian, was chosen by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray in 2011 to manage the 2,000-member department. Although some of his decisions were not well received by the department’s old guard and union, Ellerbe will be remembered by native Washingtonians for willingness to address the past discriminatory practices in the department.

“White boys ruled the D.C. fire department no matter who is the chief,” said Lon Walls, former public information officer for the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS). “Ellerbe made some drastic changes that did not sit well with the union and the status quo. People don’t like change, especially when it might affect their livelihood.”

Approximately 25 percent of FEMS personnel reside in the District. The rest come from as far as New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia.

“The long established schedule favored non-District residents,” Walls said. “Ellerbe wanted a new schedule that included three nights or days on and three days off. The union went wild.”

Walls also recalled a year in which the department answered 170,000 calls for service.

“People would call the fire department for stubbing their toes. Many times 50 percent would be at emergency rooms waiting for hours,” said Walls.

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Source: AFRO.com | Valencia Mohammed

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