Firefighter's union: Too many old trucks on D.C. fleet

Some are raising concerns about the way crews were dispatched to a house fire in Northeast Washington last week, and wondering if there are too many outdated trucks on the fleet. The roof of the house collapsed, sending five firefighters to the hospital, one in critical condition.

The president of the firefighter's union said this fire is a prime example of the problem. He said a different truck, housed less than a mile away from the scene, should have responded first. That truck was out on a call filling in for a ladder truck that was out of commission.

In fact, three of 16 ladder trucks were out of service, setting off a snowball effect that left the firefighters scrambling for a response vehicle. Finally, a truck from three miles away responded.

“You start pulling resources from one side of the city to another and it's just a disaster waiting to happen,” said Ed Smith, president of the D.C. firefighter’s union.

Smith said crews could have ventilated the structure properly and more quickly removed the window bars that trapped firefighters inside.

“Certainly we wish that every station had a ladder truck, ambulance, an engine and a paramedic aboard, but that's not strategically prudent of us,” said Pete Piringer, a D.C. fire spokesman.

During the early morning hours of the fire, crews were juggling multiple calls and Piringer says that each truck was on scene well within standard response times.
The issue with getting the trucks fixed is money. Meanwhile, all but one ladder truck are back to operating.

The only one still out of commission? One of two trucks who would respond to a fire at the White House.