WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- A D.C. ambulance caught fire Tuesday morning on Benning Road in Southeast Washington, the second time this month that an ambulance in the district caught fire. And on Tuesday afternoon, yet another went up in smoke at Washington Hospital in Northwest Washington.
This is all in addition to President Obama's Medic 1 ambulance that ran out of gas on August 8 due to a reported broken fuel gauge. According to fire officials, all three ambulances are older models, scheduled to be replaced by newer units in the next couple of months. An investigation is now underway by D.C. police.
“I want to be certain that nothing untoward is occurring to these vehicles that could possibly put the public at risk,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander in a statement.
The earlier incident happened moments after the crew went into an apartment to retrieve an injured man. First, there was billowing smoke; then, flames shooting out of the ambulance engine.
“It started smoking up the whole parking lot,” said Keisha Jones, one of the residents of Hampton East Apartments. “It started smoking really, really bad -- I said I'm going to call the fire department.”
A second ambulance arrived and took the victim of an apparent domestic dispute to the hospital. No one got hurt from the fire, but a lot of people are troubled by what happened.
"They're risking lives when actually they're supposed to be saving lives," said Monique Howard, another Hampton East resident.
The first ambulance of Tuesday happens to come from the same fire house as the ambulance that burst into flames after dropping off a patient at MedStar Health on August 2.
As for the second ambulance, reports have yet to confirm whether there was just smoke or smoke in addition to a fire. The cause was allegedly an air compressor in the engine compartment that went out.
So in the past two weeks, there have now been three ambulances with fire or smoke issues, and one that ran out of gas due to a reported fuel gauge issue – also known as Medic 1, the unit assigned to President Obama’s motorcade.
Officials with the Firefighters Union say the recent problems are signs of a department in turmoil – short on staff, lacking in equipment, and low on personnel. But those who witnessed this morning’s fire say they believe it could have led to something worse.
"Look how close it is to our building, it could have just blown our kids up or anything,” said Howard.