DC Fire missteps bring up old wounds

WASHINGTON — Missteps at the D.C. Fire and Emergency Services department recently brought to light have recalled old wounds for one family.

This week, a fire lieutenant was singled out for wrongdoing in response to a choking toddler in Tenleytown.

In that March incident, the nearest ambulance was not dispatched. Days later, the 1-year-old died.

Last year, Medric “Cecil” Mills collapsed with a heart attack across the street from a fire station in Northeast.

Despite efforts to flag someone inside to help, no one in the fire station assisted. Mills, too, later died.

“The Mills family is outraged but not surprised by the recent events,” says Karen Evans, the lawyer representing the family.

“It’s just a continuation of dereliction of duty and incompetence by the D.C. Fire and EMS department.”

The family filed a lawsuit against the department earlier this year.

“It has gotten to the point where no one is being held accountable,” Evans says.

The lieutenant cited for wrongdoing in the March response will face a trial board for possible disciplinary action.

An internal report blamed both human error and technical problems with new tablets for the nearest medical unit not being dispatched.

“We have sent memos out to our department so all our members are aware that they need to listen to alarms, that if they recognize there are closer units to be able to [respond],” says Fire Chief Gregory Dean.

The technical issues have also been addressed.

“There are ongoing tests with the tablets, but we believe that the patch that was implemented some months ago is effective,” says Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The Mills family has called for the abolition or modification of the Public Duty Doctrine, so that emergency responders could be held accountable for causing death or injury.

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