Firefighter Alleges Assault by D.C. Fire Chief

A firefighter is alleging he was physically confronted by D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe last week while taking a photo of an ambulance fire.

A D.C. ambulance caught fire Aug. 13 while responding to a call in the 4700 block of Benning Road in Southeast. Another ambulance caught fire later that day while responding to an emergency at the Washington Hospital Center in Northwest.

Sean C. Griffith, 33, says he was taking a picture of the ambulance fire in Southeast, when Ellerbe approached him and "grabbed" the phone from him, causing injury to his wrist -- enough for Griffith to seek medical attention, according to the criminal complaint.

"His job is safe," Ellerbe told News4 Wednesday. "I can tell you that I didn't snatch the phone from him. I asked him if he had [a cell phone], asked if I could see it, he gave it to me, and that was the end of it as far as I was concerned."

Representatives with the D.C. Firefighters Association said they were not involved in the filing of the complaint.

"It's definitely something that we want to see investigated," union official Dabney Hudson said. "If there was something egregious there, we hope appropriate actions are taken."

Some say the incident is just another example of the strained relations between Ellerbe and firefighters.


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"It could be, but again, I'm focused on moving the department forward," Ellerbe said.

Mayor Vincent Gray said his administration will be making a "major" announcement next week on big improvements in the equipment and staffing problems that have plagued the department for months.


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