D.C. Firehouses Temporarily Close Over Weekend

Several fire and medic units across northwest D.C. were temporarily closed last weekend -- and it could happen again.

In 2011, D.C. Council passed a cap on the amount of overtime firefighters can rack up, after years of tampant overtime spending by the department. Now, by law, firefighters can only work 36 hours of overtime every 4-week period.

This past weekend was the end of the most recent 4-week cycle, leading the department to temporarily close 2 engine companies and 2 trucks all in northwest D.C. 

"It's going to happen at the end of every month. We're going to be doing station roulette through the summer unless this is addressed," D.C. Council member Tommy Wells said. "The cap is an artificial, blunt instrument that does not serve the District well."

The cap isn't the only hurdle the department is facing. The city has a shortage of firefighters -- 177 vacancies at last count. 

"Just recently, a 90-year-old woman waited for a truck that never came," D.C. Council member Vincent Orange said. "Those are the kinds of concerns still continue in the nation's capital and I think it's uncalled for ... this department is flush with cash, I don't see why we should be shutting down anything."

On the other hand, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says the council should stop micro-managing the fire department and instead get rid of the overtime and scheduling restrictions.

"I think we need to let the fire chief manage the fire department," Gray said. "Let the fire chief do what the police chief does. We don't put those contraints on the police chief." 

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