Audit shows D.C. Fire Department trucks failing inspections - FOX 13 News

Audit shows D.C. Fire Department trucks failing inspections

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A new audit of the D.C. Fire Department’s fleet of vehicles shows three ladder trucks have recently failed safety inspections and the city’s only tower truck, used for pinpoint firefighting, has been out of service since March.

The audit also shows only two ladder trucks in reserve. It’s a shortage that has union officials and lawmakers deeply concerned.

When Frager’s Hardware Store went up in flames last week the fire department was without one of its most important tools, a tower truck capable of pouring massive amounts of water on a fire and doing so with pinpoint precision.

But tower three, which is at least ten years old, was in the shop where it’s been on and off for more than a year.

Fire officials in command of the four alarm fire admit that had tower three been available it would have been one of the first trucks called to the scene.

But the apparatus is old and in need of major repairs.

"Currently its down at one of our vendors, said Deputy Chief John Donnelly, “we towed it down there, the engine is running, the tower is now operating, we sent an extensive list of things we want repaired on it and we are working with the vendor to get those done but I expect that ladder truck is two or three months away from returning to help our community".

If you went to the scene of the Frager’s Hardware Store fire or saw some of the pictures on TV you may have seen two tower trucks there, one from the U.S. Navy and one from Fairfax County.

"On Frager’s we had a lot of water flowing right away with the initial units on the scene, again it’s a tool in the tool box, it would have been nice to have, at the end of the day I’m not sure, or I’m confident it wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome", said Deputy Chief Donnelly.

On any given day, 16 ladder trucks are in service in the city running all sorts of calls.

Tuesday morning in the 900 block of Fifth Street southeast, a ladder truck showed up first on a medical call. A routine assignment but it puts tremendous wear and tear on the rigs.

That's why it's an industry standard to put them through yearly stress and safety tests.

But the department fell behind and didn't test the trucks for several years.

Since March, three of them failed.

"So moving forward the next round of tests are scheduled for June 24th and we will do one test that week and one test the following week and we will continue that way until we get through the whole fleet", said Deputy Chief Donnelly.

D.C. city councilman Tommy wells, who has oversight of the fire department, says the procurement process for new apparatus is way too slow.

"We've said, buy them here's the money, go get ‘em and initially their procurement process just failed," said Wells.

D.C. fire officials have said new apparatus have been ordered and Deputy Chief Donnelly says a new tower truck will be in the city by 2014.

We should note the commanders on the scene of the fire at Frager’s Hardware did not specifically ask the Navy and Fairfax County for tower trucks.

Instead, that's what was dispatched when the city asked for mutual aid.

Union officials fear the slow procurement process along with an aging fleet is putting public safety at risk. Something they've been saying for months

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