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Jane Blume February 24, 2012 16:07

District of Columbia fire fighters continue to be unhappy with the department’s rebranding efforts.

This week a fire lieutenant was placed on administrative leave for wearing the wrong logo on his jacket. 

The lieutenant was at the Fire Training Academy with other members of his crew practicing for an upcoming certification test when a deputy chief asked him to remove his overcoat. The fire lieutenant said all he wanted to do was stay warm.

This is the fourth change to the uniform policy since an announcement was made last spring and the changes have resulted in fire fighters paying for new clothing every 2 ½ months. Fire fighters said the department needs to pay for the protective clothing since it is the chief who wants the uniform change.

This latest incident is one of many concerns DC fire fighters have about the direction of the fire department. 

Over the past year, Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe has supported a number of controversial initiatives, including a pilot program that dispatched DC fire fighters in high crime neighborhoods late at night during the summer months. Ellerbe said fire fighters helped to reduce crime on neighborhood corners making for “good witnesses.” Fire fighters argued the program blurred the lines of public safety and that they aren’t trained for crime fighting.

The fire chief is also advocating a new shift plan that has not been received well with the fire department.

The plan, known as a 3-3-3 work schedule, would call for fire fighters to work three 12-hour days, followed by three 12-hour nights, followed by three days off. The plan would increase work hours, but not pay. Fire fighters said the shift will take a physical toll and that their cognitive skills would be diminished. Fire fighters also say that the shift change would cost the City more money because of DC’s no residency requirement -- many fire fighters would have to travel an extended period of time to get to work. In advance of the proposed shift change, the fire department is trying to fight off attrition levels. Some 40 paramedics are rumored to have left the department due to the changes. Fire fighters fear the shift change could diminish the department’s staffing by over 400 positions.

Fire fighters describe Ellerbe as too focused on peripheral issues and ignoring more serious and larger issues that have a direct impact on fire fighter safety -- such as fire apparatus falling into disrepair with no reserve in place.

Just yesterday, news photographers caught painters painting over DCFD on the bay doors at Engine Co. 7.

For the DCFD logo, Ellerbe said he wants to make EMS more prominent in the banner. He is now requiring fire fighters to wear uniforms, T-shirts and hats that bear FEMS (Fire and Emergency Medical Services). In addition, FEMS would apply to the seal. 

What do you think? Does placing the fire lieutenant on administrative leave for wearing the wrong logo go too far? What do you think about the shift change? 

Is this leadership style appropriate for the Nation’s Capital, for that matter any major metropolitan fire department?


 


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Categories: Fire Fighters in the News

Comments

2/27/2012 5:54:08 PM #

Our DC brothers have every reason and right to be upset about Ellerbe's various changes to the department.  That shift schedule is about as inconvenient as anything I could imagine. And it will wreck their sleep cycles, no doubt. The numerous logo changes also wreak of bullying, as well.  First, it is costing the firefighters money and it is undoubtedly adding to a great number of their financial woes. Then he uses the acronym "FEMS"?! Disrespectful on many levels. Unreal.

Joseph Galli (Elgin)

2/27/2012 6:56:17 PM #

Chief Ellerbe is being irrational about this Fems thing.

He is like a little child who throws a temper tantrum when his mommy doesn't pamper him.

In the first place it is ridiculous to call Firefighters FEMS.
Most anyone can see no man would want to be called that, any more than a soldier would want to be called a WAC.

Placing a man on suspension for wearing DCFD on his back when he is a DC Firefighter is not only silly it is just plain obtuse.His inability to accept any objection to his iron rule is a bit sociopathic. DCFD has a proud tradition. FEMS is nothing but an insulting Acronym.
Chief Ellerbe has been against anything to do with tradition since his arrival back at DC. Why Mayor Gray asked this man to return is a mystery.Maybe he just asked him to return so he could earn his retirement instead of being permitted to stay on administrative leave for a year so he could qualify and then run down to Sarasota.

I retired from DCFD 22 years ago, and am proud to say I retired from DCFD, The term DC FEMS is abhorrent to me,and obviously to a lot of members now on the job.

We all know that EMS has become an important part of the Fire Service, but most of the men in the Fire Service came on the job to fight fires , save property and lives from being lost in conflagrations, not to ride ambulances.A few came on for the paycheck,but most came to fullfill a dream.
We have to accept ,I suppose, that we will spend a certain amount of time filling in on the ambulances,but for most of us that is the price we pay to belong to the Fire service.

I believe this FEMS problem is more for Chief Ellerbe's ego building, power play, than for any legitimate reason.A way to show those who oppose him who is in charge.

The shift change is just plain insane. What man would want to go from a 42 hr week to a 56 or 60 hr.,or more,  week for the same pay?
It is just an attempt to force Firefighters to live in the city. City Administrators have been choking on that piece of tough meat for 40 years now.Yes 40 years at least.
I heard Ellerbe spent money to place his picture in all of the Firehouse's . A little on the Narcissistic side but funny. He aint no Danzel Washington.

Francis Gibson (Washington)

2/29/2012 12:27:20 PM #

I served with brother Gibson in the DCFD and share his sentiments.  We worked under the 3 day, 3 night, 3 off schedule and it was the pits.  We spent a great deal of our time sitting in DC traffic and it's ten times worse now.
It's a shame that a department with so much history and pride is in such turmoil.  I thank God that I served (1961-1988)when I did.  Our thoughts are with the working members of the DCFD
Frank Jurney (Clarke County, Virginia)

Frank Jurney (Washington)

3/7/2012 4:04:33 PM #

Former DC fire fighter speaks on city's rebranding efforts

Former DC fire fighter speaks on city's rebranding efforts

IAFF Frontline Blog

7/12/2012 11:55:20 AM #

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