Washington, D.C., ambulance fleet under intense scrutiny after embarrassing breakdowns.

The International Association of Firefighters, Local No. 36, Washington, D.C.'s firefighter union chapter, is concerned about the alarming number of breakdowns in the District's ambulance fleet and recommends investigations into its state of disrepair, implying that D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe should be held responsible.

An alarming number of embarrassing mishaps involving the fleet has brought scrutiny to fire department management and to the upkeep of its vehicles, which recently have caught on fire, shut down due to malfunctions mid-response, had road signs installed as heat shields – yes, you read that right... see the image above – and ran out of gas while detailing President Obama's motorcade. From July 19-26, during a heat wave, 67 ambulances in the 94-strong fleet were brought in for repairs at least once, and 22 required repairs more than two times. Many of the breakdowns were related to air-conditioning systems, which were under more stress during the heatwave, The Washington Times reports.

And how did the vehicle maintenance crew handle the A/C repairs? That's where the heat-shields road signs come in. Deputy Mayor Paul Quander confirmed in a statement that, to protect A/C systems, temporary heat shields made of road signs were installed, which have since been removed from the vehicles, the Washington City Paper reports. Check out a news video and the Local 36 press release that we included below.

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Local 36 Press Release On Ambulance Fires!

August 14th, 2013 - Local 36 is very concerned at the recent events concerning our apparatus fleet. Local 36 is steadfast in our belief that the safety and welfare of our members and the public remains paramount above all other issues.

As always, DC Fire Fighters Association Local 36 welcomes any and all investigations into the root cause of these mechanical breakdowns. In fact we recommend that NIOSH or the National Transportation Safety Board be brought in to investigate the whole Fire & EMS fleet for any and all safety violations.

The attached picture is an example of what fire fighters are forced to try and work with on a daily basis. Yes, that is a parking sign jammed into the motor as a make shift heat shield. You be the judge?

The only thing "untoward" behind these ambulance fires is the complete neglect by those in charge to make sure our fleet is properly maintained. Casting loose and broad accusations at the feet of the rank and file membership continues to be the standard response from fire department leadership. Time and again these accusations have been and will continue to be unfounded.

It is absolutely unacceptable that Kenneth Ellerbe's priority was making sure new logos were put on all the apparatus by our maintenance shop at the expense of preventive maintenance and proper repair of apparatus.

Isn't it time the fire chief was held responsible for this mess?