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Firefighter claim fuels problems facing D.C. Fire

Wednesday - 8/21/2013, 6:45pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Two ambulance fires on the same day raised eyebrows and new concerns about the state of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. But the problems didn't end with the flames.

A firefighter who took pictures of one of the ambulance fires has filed a complaint with police, alleging that Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe assaulted him in the process.

The unnamed firefighter claims the phone was snatched from his hand and his wrist was hurt in the process, according to the D.C. Firefighters Association Local 36.

The firefighter later went to a clinic and missed work, the union says.

The complaint only fuels tension between Ellerbe and the department's rank and file.

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has called for a police investigation of last week's ambulance fires. The purpose, he said at the time, was to see if anything "untoward" was going on.

The firefighters union took exception with Quander's statement, believing it to be a veiled accusation that their members sabotaged the ambulances.

But the claim of a scuffle with Ellerbe appears unlikely to change Mayor Vince Gray's support for his fire chief.

"Chief Ellerbe is doing a good job," says Quander, who is the deputy mayor of public safety and justice. "But we have incidents that we're having to take a look at, and every time we take a look, it is taking time away from something else, draining resources," he says.

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