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Lack of nearby rescue squad concerns NW

(Published July 1, 2002)


Staff Writer

Remodeling of the Tenleytown firehouse has left the District’s far Northwest area without adequate fire and medical coverage, according to Advisory Neighborhood Com-mission 3/4G, which has expressed impatience with city officials’ lack of haste to remedy the situation.

The area’s firetrucks and ambulance were moved out of the Wisconsin Avenue firehouse on June 9. The trucks were relocated to 4930 Connecticut Ave. NW. To make room for the firetrucks, the Connecticut Avenue ambulance was moved to the Palisades. The Tenleytown ambulance was relocated to Adams Morgan.

City officials say the District is on the verge of making a deal with the Naval District of Washington’s Nebraska Avenue complex near Ward Circle that would allow the Tenleytown fire and rescue squads to be located closer to the Upper Northwest area they normally serve. The fire department is working with the Navy to draft a Memorandum of Understanding, which will allow city firefighters to legally use the space during the firehouse renovation, officials said.

In the meantime, many neighborhood officials are fuming that the reassignment should have been finalized before renovation of the Tenleytown firehouse began.

D.C. Councilwoman Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3, said that although the renovation is important to Ward 3, a temporary reassignment in close proximity to Tenleytown should have been devised sooner.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3/4G Chairman Anne Renshaw said she and her ANC have been asking about temporary reassignment of the Tenleytown fire and rescue equipment ever since renovation plans began to be discussed. But she said Fire Chief Ronnie Few has not put any money into a temporary location.

"I can recall him saying, ‘We have plenty of time,’" she said.

Ward 3 City Council candidate Erik Gaull also has joined the chorus of complaints about the situation. Gaull has asked the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to keep the area’s two ambulances nearby.

"It is vital to life safety that these critical emergency response crews not be sent to Adams Morgan and elsewhere," he said in a statement. "We need the response capacity here, in the heart of Ward 3."

The movement of the medical transports from Wisconsin Avenue also has left Upper Northwest without any nearby medical coverage at night.

Ambulance 20, which was the only life support unit in the far Northwest, has its backup located at Missouri Avenue and Georgia Avenue, but its service stops at 9 p.m. Upper Northwest also has backup from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, but not only is it a distance away from the actual area, it is not always available for response in the District because it primarily goes to Montgomery County.

A recent written agreement with the D.C. fire department allows the B-CC Rescue Squad to answer emergency calls in Upper Northwest. The mutual agreement, which had existed informally for many years, is present just in case the department needs to put a lot of resources in one area, officials said.

Fire Chief Few, who has resigned but will continue in his position until July 31, said he believes there was proper planning and budgeting for the reassignment. D.C. Fire/EMS wants to improve the technology in all of the fire stations because it will increase service and decrease response time, he said.

"The renovation of Engine 20 will make this firehouse more functional for the fire/EMS workers who use it, which will translate to better service for those who depend on us," Few said in a written statement.

The chief said it was extremely necessary for the renovations to take place on the firehouse, even though a proper reassignment was not determined before work began.

"That place needed to be renovated right now before it fell down and killed somebody," fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.

The fire station, which was originally built in 1901, has Engine 20, Truck 12 and Ambulance 20. The renovations are expected to be completed in about 14 months.

Not only will the renovation enhance the service and equipment provided at the fire station, but the remodeling will protect the historical attributes of the firehouse and surrounding neighborhood. Through a compromise with the city’s historic preservation officials, the District government and the Fire/EMS Department, the new project will protect three sides of the historic building.

Funding for the upgrading came in part from Congress in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The District plans to renovate three firehouses per year.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator