D.C. emergency responders were forced to take a toddler to the hospital in a fire truck after learning the closest ambulance was several miles away.
Sources tell News4 a fire truck from Company 33 in southeast Washington transported a toddler having a seizure to the hospital at 5 p.m. Friday. The paramedics made the decision to transport the child to United Medical Center after learning the closest ambulance would have to travel seven miles in rush hour traffic to get to the scene.
The decision is being praised by D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe.
"It was a good idea. It was the right decision to make, and it was a good decision for the patient," Ellerbe said.
The department has been working for months to address slow response times, understaffed stations, and a lack of "single-role" paramedics.
"We're looking at increasing our ambulance capacity in the city. We know that we have approximately 60 ambulances available for service. We put 39 units on the streets every day, and we're looking at maybe about putting 45 on the street," Ellerbe said.
Ward 6 Councilman and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells is also praising the decision made by Company 33.
"I don't know how long it would've taken for the ambulance to get there, but the firefighters clearly did the right thing. They used their own judgment, they stepped forward, and they made a decision that seems to have saved this child's life," Wells said.
But he says he is concerned about the availability of ambulances, especially east of the Anacostia River.
Wells plans to hold an oversight hearing Monday that will primarily focus on the confusion and miscommunications that may have contributed to the death of Medric Mills.
Mills died across the street from a D.C. fire station after five firefighters inside the firehouse failed to take any action to provide assistance. Several miscommunications with 911 dispatchers also led to a delayed response.
The fire department has been at the center of several incidents regarding response times in recent months.
A woman contacted News4 in January, claiming her son died four years ago outside a fire station waiting for help, while an EMT on duty refused to treat him. The News4 I-Team learned some D.C. firehouses were understaffed during last year's shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Last April, Ellerbe admitted only 58 of the department's 111 ambulances were in service. Since then, Ellerbe has testified that 30 new vehicles were put into service last year.