D.C. Fire Department holds silent protest

      A protest over your safety at home has the D.C. Fire Department and its chief under fire.

      Last year the D.C. Fire Department rank-and-file members walked out of Chief Kenneth Ellerbe's first State of the Department address in protest of his policies. At his second address Wednesday night, they didn't show up at all. Sources tell ABC7 this year's protest was a silent one.

      Only moments before Chief Ellerbe started his State of the Department address, only a few dozen cadets and a few managers had shown up in a nearly empty auditorium. In fact, ABC7 didn't see any of the more than 2,000 rank-and-file department members. The chief also invited two top union officials to speak at the event.

      "Because we know that we have to have a partnership with labor and due to some unforeseen circumstances they're not here," says Chief Ellerbe.

      Critics say the silent protest reflects a lack of confidence in Chief Ellerbe's leadership. Sources say members are upset about his proposal to move from 24 to 12-hour shifts and another plan to redeploy some overnight EMS resources to other shifts, two ideas the chief thinks will save money and lives.

      The chief did acknowledge the poor turnout.

      "So I will do this again and again and hopefully folks will show up and hear these types of messages," he says.

      But afterward, he insisted his focus isn't on attendance, it's on keeping the public safe.

      "As long as the fire goes out, the EMS units get to the scene, I think we'll be fine."

      Hoping his remarks would spark better dialogue between management and labor, knowing full well that some of his ideas are, in his words, "challenging the traditions of the Department."