D.C. Firefighters Turn Backs on Chief, March Out

More than 100 D.C. Firefighters turned their backs on Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe Tuesday in an effort to send an unmistakable message -- they don't like his policies.

Ellerbe had just finished the first ever "State of the Department" speech, and asked if there were any questions, according to WTTG-TV.

That's when someone shouted the order: "DCFD, attention! About face!"

With that the firefighters, wearing job shirts and sweatshirts emblazzoned with DCFD on them, turned their backs to the chief. Seconds later, another order was given: "DCFD, dismissed."

As he watched, some who remained in the room shook their heads in disagreement.

Ellerbe said he wasn't surprised.

"No I can't afford to get upset overstuff like that,” he told reporters. “We have a department to run and a department to manage, no it doesn't upset me, I almost want to say it was expected."

In addition to ordering firefighters not to wear garments with the DCFD letters, Ellerbe also is changing schedules that will have  firefighters working 24 hours straight, followed by three days off.

Many firefighters say the plan will only disrupt their lives, force some to quit and will not save the money the chief claims it will.

Lt. Robert Alvarado, who calls himself a de facto spokesman for hundreds of unhappy firefighters, says a shift change is uncalled for.

"If you look at any study and there have been several reports that have come out recently,” said Lieutenant Robert Alvarado, “Philadelphia has just done a study that is recommending changing their shift from this ten, 14 or 12 hour shifts to a 24 hour shift because it is more efficient."

Lt. Alvarado has been very outspoken in recent weeks against the Chief's policy's and is facing discipline for doing so. But he's backed by the union.

“The morale of the fire department as we see it at this day and time is probably one of the lowest it’s been in history," said Dabney Hudson with Firefighters Local 36.