Loose Lips

Fire Department Investigating Chief’s Alleged Phone Grab

Today brings still more laugh-or-you'll-cry news about the District's Fire and EMS Department. While the Metropolitan Police Department investigates why two ambulances caught fire last Wednesday (internal reports blame shoddy maintenance), the fire department has started its own investigation into whether Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe took a firefighter's cell phone without his permission.

The dispute started at the site of one of the ambulance fires, after the fire union's Twitter account sent out a picture of the burning vehicle. When Ellerbe arrived on the scene, he asked to see firefighters' phones to see if they had taken the ambulance picture that the union used.

That's where the accounts diverge. In the union's version of the story, first reported by Washingtonian, Ellerbe snatched a phone from one firefighter. "It sounded like it could have been confrontational," union president Ed Smith tells LL.

But according to Keith St. Clair, a spokesman for Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander, Ellerbe had received permission from the firefighter to look at his phone.

"He wanted to know who was giving it to the union," St. Clair says. At Ellerbe's request, the department's internal affairs division is conducting an investigation into the alleged phone grab, according to St. Clair. A spokesman for the fire department declined to comment.

Washingtonian's story also hints at "rumors" that the unnamed firefighter will file assault charges against Ellerbe, but as of this morning, Ellerbe hasn't been charged in D.C. Superior Court.

"If this person felt that they were assaulted, then they would have filed a complaint," St. Clair says. "Look at what the labor-management relationship is right now."

Photo courtesy IAFF36

  • Barney Miller

    coup de grâce ?

  • Corky

    More nonsense from the firefighter's union. They may have some legit grievances, but sabotaging equipment, staging sick outs and demonizing the Chief for everything isn't helping their cause. When was the last time you heard of a Fire Chief being responsible for putting gas in a truck? This union is being run by a bunch of 8th graders.

  • Progress

    So...the FD can't investigate fires, but it can investigate assault, battery, and theft of property.

    In a department where the ACLU questions the ability for firefighters to receive justice, where the FEMS chief has been found guilty of retaliation, where the FC can apparently act with impunity, some guy named Corky thinks this is a union problem.

    Let me tell you something junior --- destruction of property is a crime, and interfering with a government official is a chargeable offense, requiring far less proof than a crime, and yet no one has been charged, much less found guilty in an Ellerbe kangaroo court, for sabotage. The same goes for industrial actions like sick out and chargeable offenses like sick leave abuse.

    There's a reason that no one's been charged. Even an ellerbe-packed make-the-right-choice or get demoted trial board, couldn't find anyone guilty with NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER.

    The FEMS chief is ultimately responsible for the fleet, including guages. The crew working should have filled it, out of an abundance of caution and experience working with that broken and ill-repaired equipment that DC provides it's Fire & EMS workers to work with. They made a mistake, and did not. However, it should please you that neither that crew, nor the mechanic's responsible for fixing stuff, are members of your favorite firefighter's union.

    If it weren't for the union, the public would have no idea what their Fire & EMS Department was up to.

  • sticktoyourguns

    Ellerbe needs to go...Is he still engaged to the DOES Director??

  • DCShadyBoots

    Is there a way to go through Congress to bust open this union?


    yeah there is DCShadyboots....it just happens that the place to go isn't congress, but if you bend all the way forward..you'll fimd its between your scrotum and your anoose....hope this helps you out

  • Elvis Picasso

    Interesting - It is my belief that the Metropolitan Police Department should be investigating this - an alleged assault - to ensure there is nothing 'untoward' occurring. Having the IAD investigate it, is like asking the rats to investigate the cheese. The previous poster is correct - the members responsible for the fuel gauge incident, are not members of the firefighter's union. They are members of the AFGE union, which covers all of the former single-role providers, communications workers, and yes, the department shop personnel. The unit should have been placed out of service, and had the fuel gauge repaired - but it was not. The fire chief (and deputy mayor) seems to be mostly preoccupied with one issue - disparaging the firefighters union, rather than running a large city agency. There are now allegations of missing/found/missing again apparatus budget money - to the tune of $10M. Something stinks downtown, and for once, it's not the kitchen...


    hey Corkster....come on up for air, wipe your mouth off..good work...another successful day for you...

  • seDCdude

    Ayy HOOKER,

    still salivating for anything S.E. or Chief Ellerbe eh?? Your GAY enuendo and disrespectful tirades make you look PATHETICALLY pathetic and desperate!

    Pathetic azz GUMP! And since you wanna post and pry at an attempt at who I BE, consider yourself the prey.....watch your back!

  • seDCdude

    No Corky,

    try short bus riders from outta town!


    you really believe your a pirate don't you...just not the kind you would find on a ship right?


    why would I have to watch my back for....you coming for me pumpkin..oh i get it...this is the part where I'm to curl up in a ball in fear of my life right....guess its time to pull a mizwillis and go cry to Will Sommer....id say your pathetic but thats really an insult to pathetic people...

  • Drez

    Another management failure.

  • http://citypaper sly

    The chief should have snatch the phone from the little anti-black termite.

  • http://citypaper sly



    Will Sommer...can we release the names of all the cowards on here that spew their racist hatred...Im pretty sure most if not all, are 1 or 2 people with disturbing personalities, but the POS wouldn't have the set to say any of this to ones face, but the CP provides a safe haven for this scum...

  • Drez

    That's not going to happen.
    But, as you say, it's just a few people.
    So who really cares? I'm not even convinced they believe what they write. I think there is a decent chance they are agents provocateurs. Screw them and any other pigs who invite you to wrestle in the mud.


    I hear ya Drez...t

  • mizwillis

    Hey LL: I'm crying to you again. Is there a way to put HOOKMAN on the hook? I'm a little concerned for his safety. I'm more than a little concerned that someone who presents with such obvious symptoms of mental illness could actually work for the DC Fire Department.

  • mizwillis

    And by the way LL: As my friends have said during our gatherings to discuss your blog: "Please don't stop #17 on this post. He/She is hilarious and his/her rants just make our day." We just love poking fun at him. Oink, Oink, Oink.

    "Screw the pigs......." ROFLOBO

  • Barry Morase

    My question, where is Mayor Gray on all this? Mayor Gray need to become more visible on this issue and maybe he need to replace Fire Chief Ellerbe. The D.C. Fire Department has gotten bad press around the world because we are the Nations Capital.

  • qwerty

    I just read the wikipedia entry for Kenneth Ellerbe and am really shocked that this man still has a job. He really sounds like a petty and vindictive man who wouldn't have his position if it werent for his longtime friendship with Vincent Gray.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Disrespect of the chain of command is intolerable and all those who engage in such activity should be summarily terminated. Point. Blank. Period. Make them sit on the sidelines in appeals with no paycheck for the next couple of years.

  • DCShadyBoots

    Did they fire the driver of Med1 yet?

  • Corky

    Hookman--have you sabotaged any equipment today?

  • Terry Miller

    So the Chief wanted to look at somebody's personal phone to check to see who had sent the picture to the Union? And if he had found that person, what would he do? Put him or her on charges? For sharing information with the union? Seems like there is a lot WRONG with this,including perhaps an unfair labor practice? What about the first amendment? It seems that the firefighter was sharing information about a matter of public concern (ambulance on fire) and it would violate the firefighter's rights to try to punish him or her for taking pictures of the ambulance. And why would Chief Ellerbe's first action after seeing a picture of the blaze on the media, be to go after the person who posted it?


    mizwillis...explain in detail why you're concerned for my safety???

    second....if you're blind to the agency head of the Fire Dept and how he's torn piece by piece the moral fibers of this department and how he and his few minions have treated people because of his payback mentality, then I'd suggest you voluntarily submit to a urinalysis test, as well as your recommended mental evaluation before you suggest anyone to take one....If Ellerbe and his narcissist personality can be on this job, its possible for even you to be employed....

  • mizwillis

    Poor Li'l HOOKMAN.

    Whatever you do, NEVER discuss one's narcissistic personality disorder. You Sir/Madam fight fires. I on the other hand attempt to correct mental health disorders.

    One of the techniques I use as intervention is having someone literally look into a mirror in an attempt to describe what it is they see about themselves. If that person is successful and has the ability to adequately recognize the reflection, we then move on to the more difficult task of gaining or developing better insight to what is the root cause of the unhealthy symptoms that led them to seek treatment. INSIGHT being the key word here!!!

  • mizwillis

    HOOKMAN: It is not only your safety for which there are concerns. It is more about the safety of other Fire Department employees and the community you so dis-serve.

  • Corky

    Looks like a lot of these union hacks are upset that not everyone is buying into their "Ellerbe is evil" campaign. Here's a clue, hacks: we don;t give a flip about your personal/racial/profit motive based vendetta against the chief. We are interested in having adequate first responders. You guys' staging sick outs (deny it all you want, but you did), undermining the management at every turn, ginning up phony fights over cellphones, running to channels 4 and 5 everynight with a new picture of a broken ambulance, whining about Chief Ellerbe's management style and sabotaging equipment does nothing to further your cause with the public. If you have a legit union grievance, then collectively bargain--stop with the silly, childish mudslinging.

  • Inside looking in

    There is an department order against taking photos at emergency scenes.it was placed on the books during fire chief Adrian Thompson's tenure.

  • pharcyde

    Yes our union is being ran by a bunch of 8th graders for sure.Corky you are 100% correct they don't like his management style. They want it their way or no way bottom line. We need to get rid of the whole upper management of this mockery called a union. Our union has never been this bad, just in the last 4 to 5 yrs has it stooped to a new low.And yes equipment has been sabotage here the story will become evident soon.I liked to hear what this bull sh@t as union has to say about that. WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM HERE IN DC AND ITS CALLED THE LOCAL36,THEY ARE THE REAL PROBLEM AND HAS THE BAD HISTORY TO BACK IT UP.

  • pharcyde


  • Is that you John Wayne?

    I agree with ya (pharcyde) they local36 is the problem


    reading these comments from the 1% of King Ellerbe's supporters is enough for someone to completely lose all grasp of reality....

    Since the mayor appoints agency heads in the DC GOV and said Mayor is under federal investigation for his illegal shadow campaign...i guess you all believe that honest Vinny hadn't a clue about it because the people who ran the campaign wanted Vinny to win so so bad that they orchestrated an illegal shadow campaign so that Vinny would win and those who orchestrated it...did so without wanting anything in return....with the comments here...im expecting to read that ole Vinny was clueless and should be vindicated....and mizwillis....im sure you have cracked many mirrors in your lifetime


    There are entirely too many people out here looking for jobs to continue to have these Pennsylvania, Boston, Vermont, West Va residents cry so damn much about what this city and its representatives are asking of you. If its too much, go fight fires where you live. Oh thats right.... Its all volunteer there. You wouldnt get paid a dime, let alone be able to ask for a raise. And for every last one of you who participates in a sick out or sabatoges equipment and jeprodizes the lives of the people who live here, people you dont give a damn about, I hope Karma breaks down the ambulance when your loved one is in need, breaks the hydrant closest to your loved ones house, leaves the closest station empty all night from a sick out protest just to prove their point.


    And I could give a damn about The fire chief either way but if you dont want to work for him, quit. Your putting me and my family in harms way to try to make him look bad is really just proving his case. And Filing a damn assault report because he snatched a phone out your hand. Really? C'mon son! You are suppose the be a hero and your hand hurts because you got a phone snatched? Child please!

  • DCShadyBoots

    Break them up and send the racist clowns packing back to West Virginia.


    wow its pretty hilarious reading some of the uneducated and illiterate comments by the hardcore soldiers of SE DC who talk to themselves probably from their moms basement....but your right...we should all quit, move back to our respective states and hand out firefighter jobs to those who don't want it....never read an article by someone from SE DC that begged to go into burning buildings because its their dream job and calling....must be lots of humble and shy people there.....

    and shadyboo....the only one pushing the race agenda are people like yourself..seDCdouche and all the other disturbed people that comment under different names
    ..coward is and understatement when it comes to you special few....keep pushing your agenda...its getting you WHERE???


    HOOKMAN. the fact that you automatically incorrectly assume that anyone who lives in DC and doesnt agree with you is Uneducated, iiterate and lives in their moms basement proves my whole ENTIRE point. You are a hero in your own mind only.

    YOU making these assumptions about those you SERVE is the reason you think you can call in sick and sabatoge your equipment to put us in harms way to get your bratty way. As I said before, you are proving your Cheifs point!

  • DCShadyBoots

    @HOOKMAN. I agree, just quit.

  • S.E.

    It's time to bring this to an end. At this point the Fire Chief, Local 36 and Firefighters are ALL making us look like a bunch of CLOWNS......

  • BubVeb

    As an outside observer, it sounds like Chief Ellerbe is the cause of all the problems. I'm from friggin' Texas. Sounds like he's using his position to circumvent the 2008 hiring list and fill staffing needs via the cadet program. Sounds like a bit of racism from the Chief to me.