D.C. city, fire officials challenge report connecting firetruck shortage to woman’s death

December 24, 2018

Two D.C. Council members are inquiring about the fire department’s apparatus, as fire and city officials push back against a report in The Washington Times citing senior department sources who said a lack of reserve vehicles contributed to a woman’s death in a fire late Tuesday.

“I am scheduled to meet with Fire Chief Gregory Dean next week to discuss these incidents and how to prevent further such situations from happening,” council member Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, told The Times on Friday.

Council member Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5 Democrat, sent a letter Wednesday to Fire Chief Gregory Dean requesting “information on whether the Department’s lack of ladder trucks had any direct [effect] on the Department’s response time and performance during the incident.”

The Times reported Thursday that Annie Maiden, 96, died late Tuesday after a fire in her home in Shaw, whose assigned fire truck was covering Southeast amid a shortage of reserve vehicles. Four fire department sources told The Times that the coverage of the Shaw neighborhood by a different fire truck caused a delay in the response that contributed to the woman’s death.

Kevin Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety, disputed the sources’ statements in a statement to The Times on Friday.

“In this incident, there was no delay by FEMS in responding to this fire, nor was there any lack of available apparatus or personnel,” Mr. Donahue said. “Our condolences are with the family, friends, and neighbors of Annie Maiden.”

On Thursday, fire department spokesman Doug Buchanan told The Times in an email that “any reference you made, in suggesting that there was a delay by our Department and members, for any reason, which may have contributed to the death of Ms. Maiden is completely irresponsible to your readers and communities and neighborhoods we serve with dedication and commitment.”

In his email, Mr. Buchanan said that five fire engines, two trucks and a rescue squad vehicle arrived at scene of Tuesday’s fire in less than 5 minutes and 20 seconds after the 911 call was received. He also noted that the National Firefighters Protection Association’s 1710 standard “ONLY requires the first fire engine in less than 5 min 20 sec.

“Not only did we beat the NFPA 1710 standard, ALL 8 ‘fire trucks’ beat the standard,” Mr. Buchanan wrote, adding that an ambulance was transporting the victim “in less than 10 min and 46 sec.”

The Times reported Thursday that Ladder Truck 4, which is assigned to the Shaw neighborhood in Northwest, was in Southeast on Tuesday night, as part of a rotation of vehicles covering for Truck 17, which had been out of service for a month, according to a department spokesman.

Truck 15, which answered Tuesday night’s call, is stationed about a mile farther from the scene than Truck 4 and arrived about four minutes after receiving the 911 call, The Times reported.

In Thursday’s report, a senior fire department official familiar with safety oversight said it was “alarming to hear a citizen has died because of a lack of coverage.”

What’s more, a senior firefighter who works with Truck 4, said he was “100 percent” confident his crew would have arrived sooner than 4 minutes.

And Dabney Hudson, president of D.C. Firefighters Association IAFF Local 36 said a one-mile difference between firehouses in a city “can be minutes” in response times.

The Times previously reported that the fire department’s reserve fleet is depleted due to having too few new vehicles in the fleet and slow repair work at the department’s fleet maintenance in Southwest.

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