DC fire chief working to overhaul troubled agency

Chief Gregory Dean said the department's biggest issue is that it’s not equipped to handle a growing number of medical calls

WASHINGTON — D.C. Fire Chief Gregory Dean is ramping up his efforts to overhaul the long-troubled fire department.

The Washington Post reported that Chief Dean’s biggest initiative is to augment his struggling ambulance fleet by using private ambulances to transport non-urgent patients. He’s encountered countless hurdles in his effort to turn out delayed response times, equipment breakdowns and shortage of paramedics.

"I'm not interested in mistakes, but how people react to challenges," Chief Dean said. Dean came to D.C. after retiring as chief of Seattle.

The department recently came under fire when a man suffering a heart attack died after firefighters stopped at the wrong location. They mistakenly thought another man was the patient they had come to help and left without double-checking.

Chief Dean said the department’s biggest issue is that it's not equipped to handle a growing number of medical calls. From 2010 to 2015, calls for fires have gone up about 10 percent, while medical calls have soared 20 percent.

The addition of private ambulances will allow medics to focus on serious medical calls, according to the report. It will also give the system time to upgrade or fix aging equipment.

"When the bell hits, it's the luck of the draw," Chief Dean said. "We expect you to go out and do the best you can. I'm not buying into the 'I'm just here to fight fire.' If they're here to fight fires, they are about 20 years too late. The business is changing — sometimes there will be those who decide not to keep up, and they will have to make choices."

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