Battalion chief faces demotion over beer incident

The beer was found at the Engine No. 9 station in Northwest. (WTOP/Mark Segraves)

WASHINGTON – The head of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department is seeking to demote a battalion chief for being too lax in discipline after beer was found at a station house in Northwest.

The Washington Times reports D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is seeking to demote Battalion Chief Richard Sterne for reprimanding and not suspending two firefighters involved in the incident.

In September, a resident grateful that firefighters from the Engine No. 9 station on U Street helped save his house from burning down brought the beer to the station as a gift. WTOP first reported that Ellerbe saw the beer and put the station out of commission while ordering staff to undergo alcohol testing.

All personnel tested negative for alcohol, but Ellerbe said command staff would be reprimanded for receiving the gift.

Two firefighters said they put the beer into a station refrigerator and were going to remove it later, the Times reports. Suspensions of 24 hours were discussed, but Sterne later issued letters of reprimand after finding there was “no intentional misconduct.”

Ellerbe did not comment on the possible personnel move to the Times, but says in a notice to Sterne the battalion chief did not consider that one of the men had committed a prior offense.

Sterne says a demotion from his rank is “unheard of,” and he is fighting the action.

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