D.C. firefighters brave cold without coat due to uniform changes

    A new departmental uniform policy is keeping some D.C. firefighters from wearing sweaters or coats while they brave the elements.

    The new policy concerns the logos and patches that can be worn by emergency responders.

    Under the change, uniforms bearing "DCFD" must go and the old plain black of blue winter coats paid for by the firefighters are no longer allowed.

    D.C. Fire and EMS views itself as a para-military organization and is striving to no longer be a homeland security risk by allowing firefighters to wear unmarked uniforms, a spokeswoman said.

    This latest change to the department's uniform policy is the fifth in less than a year.

    Firefighters say all the changes are affecting morale.

    "Our stance is that if the department wants to keep continuing to make uniform changes, they should purchase the jackets and the tools we need to do our job," said Ed Smith, president of Local 36, a firefighters union.

    The city pays for standard uniforms, but if emergency responders want sweaters, coats or hats, that comes out of pocket. Those items can cost as much as $750.

    The firefighters are asking for taxpayers to foot the bill.

    Northeast resident Monsoor Ali didn't mind.

    "I don't think that the city can afford for their firefighters to become ill," Ali said. "And I don't think they can afford for their firefighters to walk off the job or become suspended."

    Chief Kenneth Ellerbe was out of town and unable to respond to the story. Neither Ellerbe nor a department spokeswoman provided a written statement.

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