Once again, D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has delivered his State of the Department address, and for the second year in a row, he received an unmistakable message from city firefighters. The rank and file basically didn't show up.
The brass was there at the University of the District of Columbia auditorium Wednesday evening. So was the latest crop of cadets.
But two names on the program were notably absent: Kenneth Lyons, President of the paramedics union and Edward Smith, President of the firefighters local.
Last year at the State of D.C. fire department address, more than a hundred firefighters stood up and walked out when the chief finished his speech and opened the floor to questions.
This past New Year's Eve, enough firefighters called in sick to leave nearly a dozen ambulances unstaffed.
Chief Ellerbe acknowledges there is a problem. But he tells FOX 5 he has taken measures to make sure "these types of things don't happen anymore."
During this year's speech, he said his department is one of the best in the country.
"We improved our uniform appearance," he says. "We've acquired new equipment. We keep our fleet maintenance shop open 24 hours a day, not only to assure we appear to be a professional organization, but to confirm and demonstrate that we are."
I spoke to both union leaders. Neither confirmed an organized protest. Both said their members have problems with fire department leadership.