Interim DC fire chief: Firefighters deserve tougher discipline

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FireRescue1 Staff

WASHINGTON — The interim D.C. fire chief “begrudgingly accepted” the recommendations of a trail board on firefighters who didn’t help a 77-year-old man who lay dying across the street from a firehouse.

"I would have made the decision that somebody should be held responsible and lost their job," Eugene Jones, who took over after the retirement of Kenneth Ellerbe, said.

NBC Washington reported that Cecil Mills collapsed in a parking lot in January directly across the street from a D.C. firehouse. His daughter and several passerby pleaded for help, but they were told to call 911 instead.

"I ran to the curb and I was like, 'Please can you help my father. Please, please, please,'" his daughter, Maria Mills, said. "And I said, 'Are you just going to stand there and do nothing and let my dad die?'"

The firefighter said he had to check with his lieutenant. When he returned, he said he was told he could not respond, according to the report.

The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department issued the final decisions for the firefighters who didn't help Mills.

In separate hearings in June, the board recommended an official reprimand of one firefighter, suspended another, and found a third not guilty, according to the report.

Chief Jones said he was unable to increase the penalties due to a collective bargaining agreement, according to the report.

"It's completely unacceptable for these firefighters to not respond to a request for emergency medical services,” Chief Jones said. “Unfortunately, our disciplinary process does not offer the fire chief any latitude to render discipline autonomously.”

The fire lieutenant who was in charge that day was granted retirement earlier this year, before a trial board could recommend a punishment.

Four employees at D.C.'s 911 call center were also disciplined, according to the report.

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