D.C.

Kenneth Ellerbe, D.C. fire chief, will step down next month

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(WJLA) - The chief of Washington D.C.'s Fire Department will step down next month after three years marked by complaints of poor service.

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"I just think it's time," said Ellerbe.

But according to union official Dabney Hudson with the D.C. Firefighters Association, Ellerbe "seems to have waged war against the members."

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray hired Ellerbe, and had always supported the 54-year-old:

"I think he has served the city well. I appreciate the service he's provided over the last three-and-a-half years, and we wish him absolutely the best."

Ellerbe claims he wasn’t pushed out, despite the fact that both mayoral candidates have stressed no interest in keeping him on, and he touts a number of accomplishments – including restarting the cadet program, hiring more paramedics, and bringing in more ambulances.

"I think we did the very best we could with the environment that we existed in to move the agency forward and serve the citizens of the District of Columbia," he said. "I don't want to point any fingers. I don't want to say I have any regrets, because I don't."

But some say the department remains in disarray.

"The main thing is that we were losing the confidence of the public," D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells has said.

In fact, ABC7’s I-Team documented more than a year of systematic problems within the agency that impacted public safety. These include: equipment failures, staffing shortages, uncertified trucks, delayed responses to critical calls, and the Cecil Mills death.

"They haven't provided us with the minimum tools we need to do our job," said Dabney Hudson.

Hudson hopes new leadership will improve an agency he sadly considers a national embarrassment. Assistant Chief Eugene Jones will be taking over an interim basis, and Hudson thinks there should be a nationwide search for a new chief.

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