Trouble mounts with D.C. ambulance fleet amid White House incident

WASHINGTON – The trouble with fire equipment and ambulances in the District of Columbia is growing even as the fire department plans to buy new equipment.

On Aug. 9, an ambulance on a run to the White House ran out of gas and had to be left behind when a motorcade departed.

Two other ambulances caught fire while responding to emergency calls on Aug. 13. The engine caught fire in both cases.

Breakdowns are a common occurrence, says D.C. Firefighters Association 2nd Vice President Dabney Hudson.

“Every single day, our members are riding up and down the streets in vehicles that barely meet the minimum standards that allow us to do our jobs,” Hudson says.

He says the same week as the White House incident, Ambulance Co. 15 had four vehicles break down in a 24-hour shift. Two of them had to be towed.

There is some indication the ambulance at the White House had a broken gas gauge. But fire department spokesman Tim Wilson says the ambulance should have been filled up before it left the fire house.

He says the D.C. Fire Department is aggressively trying to replace old ambulances and fire trucks. The one that ran out of gas at the White House was supposed to be replaced in 2006.

Wilson say the fire department will spend $1 million on new vehicles before the year is over. He says some of them should be in the city by the end of the month, but he said he didn’t know how many or how much they will cost.

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