D.C. Mayor Says Fire Reforms Will Wait for New Chief

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday said he will not move ahead with reforms of the District's fire department until he hires a permanent fire chief.

"We want to have the new chief involved in that discussion," Mr. Fenty said. He said he expects to hire a permanent chief in the next two months.

Mr. Fenty pledged last year during his campaign for the Democratic mayoral nomination to remove the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division from the administration of the fire department, but he has since backed off that pledge, saying that he is studying the issue.

Yesterday he said that his No. 1 priority for the department was to select a new fire chief. The two-month timeline he set for naming a new chief is shorter than the goal outlined in the mayor's plan for the first 100 days of his administration. The 100-day plan calls for a new fire chief to be named within six months. The plan also calls for a decision on EMS reforms within 100 days.

The Washington Times has learned that six candidates have been interviewed for the job of fire chief.

The candidates include the District's interim fire chief, Brian K. Lee; David C. James, a former EMS chief officer in Buffalo, N.Y.; Michael P. Bell, former fire chief in Toledo, Ohio; Dennis L. Rubin, fire chief in Atlanta; Stephen M. Reid, who retired as a deputy chief from the D.C. fire department; and John McFarland, assistant chief of EMS field services for the New York City fire department.

Mr. Fenty made his comments yesterday about the future of the fire department shortly after introducing four new ambulances to the District's fleet at a press conference at Engine Company 15 in Southeast. The additional ambulances will increase to 37 the District's fleet and fulfill another pledge Mr. Fenty made in his 100-day plan that called for four additional ambulances to be put in service.

Three of the ambulances will head to the Northwest communities of West End, Columbia Heights and Cleveland Park. The fourth ambulance will be stationed at the Brentwood fire station in Northeast. All will be staffed by firefighters trained as emergency medical technicians.

Chief Lee said the new ambulances are a necessary step toward improving medical response.

"It's been no secret we've been challenged with our EMS service," he said, referring to the failed emergency response to journalist David E. Rosenbaum in Northwest last year.

Mr. Rosenbaum was beaten and robbed as he walked near his Northwest home on Jan. 6, 2006. He died two days later. An investigation by the city's inspector general found that poor emergency care and a host of errors contributed to his death.

The four ambulances that went into service yesterday are equipped with a new data-entry system called an Electronic Patient Care Reporting System, which is a paperless way of tracking patient care.

Republished with permission of The Washington Times.

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