D.C. Fire Asst. Chief exposes department misconduct in memo

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Late last year, the District hired Eugene Jones – the former Fire Chief of Prince George’s County – to help turn around D.C.’s fire department.

Well, Assistant Chief Jones issued an internal memo on February 9 that provides a candid look into an agency under fire. He writes:

“Each shift has had outrageous conduct committed by employees that is not addressed immediately...That conduct has become a nightmare for the Command staff..."

He adds: “We have a duty to fully get to the facts of the case to reduce the level of embarrassment and ridicule of DCFEMS."

For the last year, ABC7 has been documenting a long list of staffing and equipment woes within D.C. Fire and EMS. And just a couple of weeks before this memo was released, the department was embroiled in an embarrassing and heartbreaking incident.

In late January, firefighters refused to leave Engine 26 firehouse in Northeast Washington to help elderly Cecil Mills, who was dying across the street from cardiac arrest.

In the memo, Jones states: “When we find that a citizen is 'seeking assistance' we shall be responsive...That should have never happened,. that is basic..."

Sources say the statement stems from allegations that one of the firefighters ignored Cecil Mills’ pleas for help and may have been in the bunk room at the time of the incident.

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander is overseeing the Mills investigation, and applauds Assistant Chief Jones for his honest assessment. While he admits that the memo illustrates problems, Quander says it shows that the agency is moving in the right direction:

"We pay people good money to provide a service to the citizens and visitors of the District of Columbia. We expect them to do it. If they don't, they're gonna be held accountable and I'm gonna get someone in there who can."

But Councilman Tommy Wells, who chairs the committee overseeing D.C.’s public safety agencies, sees this memo from an entirely different perspective:

"It's not working. It's not about how they look in public, it's about providing competent service that we expect in a modern day."