DC Fire Chief: Ambulance fire possibly deliberate

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- The ambulance that burst into flames during a call in Southeast on Tuesday morning is a reserve unit – an old reserve unit. Still, the fire chief believes someone, possibly firefighters, might have deliberately set the fire.

Today, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander said investigators will determine whether anything untoward went on:

“I want to make sure that the experts take a look at the apparatus, that they evaluate the facts. If there is anything that is criminal, they will take appropriate action."

President Ed Smith of the Firefighters Union calls the investigation a diversion tactic -- a move to take away from the real problem plaguing the department: a lack of or broken-down equipment.{ }

"It's ridiculous; it's absolutely a smokescreen," he said.

Smith released a photo which he maintains shows how a crew had to jam a parking sign into a motor as a makeshift heat shield to keep their unit running. The union now wants the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the whole fleet.

"Everybody is at risk, so let's get out here and get a handle on all the safety, all the vehicle," said Smith.

At Hampton East Apartments on Tuesday where the second ambulance caught fire, a man who witnessed the scene also believes the fire chief and city leaders are not addressing the real problem:

"Wasn't no tampering or nothing, just blew up right in front of me. It just caught on fire and burst into flames -- it's old, it's a piece of crap."