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There’s A Fire Truck Shortage In DC And No Reserves

(Reuters/Hyungwon Kang)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials in Washington, D.C., are raising concerns over the city’s depleted fire truck fleet, which currently has no reserves or replacements.

Two of the 16 ladder fire trucks in the D.C. Department of Fire and EMS’s fleet are not currently in service. Officials reassigned the department’s only vehicle for group evacuations from tall buildings Aug. 29 and is not expected to be back in the fleet until later in September. It is currently deployed near the White House for emergencies on the grounds, reports NBC Washington.

The other missing vehicle, Truck 15, is currently out for repairs.

“There’s no doubt that a fully functional fleet with reserves is necessary for first responders, whether it’s police or fire,” Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. Council, told NBC4. “I thought they had turned the corner with regard to maintenance.”

City officials have let the supply of fire trucks dwindle in recent years. Former Mayor Vincent Gray did not add any new trucks to the department’s fleet in his term. Mayor Muriel Bowser pledged to turn things around by investing in new trucks and equipment but the department continues to face challenges.

D.C. Fire and EMS is struggling with their stock of emergency vehicles on all fronts this year despite officials spending $9 million on a private ambulance contract. D.C. officials hired a third-party ambulance service contracted from American Medical Response (AMR) in April to alleviate the burden on D.C. Fire and EMS, which is often criticized for slow response times. Officials found ambulances are still struggling to respond to emergency calls on time after a review in late August.

The contract is also intended to help replace the existing fleet of ambulances, which have regular mechanical failures and need constant repair. Officials said they have not enforced fines on AMR over responses yet, because of a marked increase in the number of 911 calls this summer. The contract anticipated a maximum of 165 calls for AMR ambulances a day. They are currently averaging 180.

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