Deputy D.C. fire chief describes culture of fear

(WJLA) - The topics on the agenda for Friday: ambulances bursting into flames, problem-plagued fire trucks, and personnel shortages -- to name a few.

Also up for discussion: D.C. firefighter Henry Dent, 35, who was arrested to allegedly obtaining Oxycodone with fraudulent prescriptions.

During a hearing that lasted all day, questions were once again raised about the recent death of 77-year-old Cecil Mills across from Engine 26.

{ }"People came over and knocked on the door, said 'come on over,' and they didn't," said Deputy Mayor Paul Quander. "When there were knocks on the door, common sense says you rush out and you help."

D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells dug deep into funding formulas, plans for new equipment, and maintenance of crumbling vehicles. The mayoral candidate made up his mind regarding the Deputy Mayor and Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe -- and the firefighters at the meeting seemed to agree:

"There is a lot of bad blood here and it's time for a change," said Ed Smith, President of the Local 36 International Association of Firefighters.

Kevin Byrne, a 36-year veteran of the department and retired firefighter, said that Ellerbe’s management style has destroyed morale and diminished performance:

"It is right now, this year -- a culture of fear and intimidation."

Throughout the meeting, Chief Ellerbe sat quietly taking in the criticism and countering it when given the opportunity:

"We have rules we are supposed to follow and for quite a while, folks didn't have to follow those rules; but quite frankly, they do and that makes people uncomfortable."