Neighbors question DC Fire about Mills death

NORTHEAST, DC (WUSA9) -- Residents in Northeast met with D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe to talk about their concerns after the death of Cecil Mills who died across the street from a fire house.

Ever since fire fighters refused to help the dying man, the community's trust in their neighborhood fire station has been shattered.

"The reason I want to ask questions is because I don't have a father. My kids, my niece, they don't have a grandfather. My mother doesn't have husband," said Medric Mills to Chief Ellerbe.

Medric is Cecil Mills' son. He told Ellerbe that it was not just a matter of not rendering aid that allowed his father to die.

"There was no compassion rendered on January 25th, 2014," said Mills.

The chief admitted that what was unacceptable.

"I apologize to your family. It should not have happened. Your father should have received service from our department," said Ellerbe.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Michael Morrison says he felt obligated to set this meeting up for the people he serves.

He said this incident was embarrassing, shocking and raises serious questions about how the fire department is capable of responding if someone knocks on the door of a D.C. fire house.

Ellerbe said that his firefighters were not restricted from helping because of protocol and they were not required to help because of some firefighter oath but they should have helped out of compassion and common sense.

"The rules were not the issue here. We are bound to respond to a call for need or care - plain and simple," said Ellerbe.

The chief added that he inherited a fire department that lacked discipline and accountability and that he has worked to change that.

"On more than one occasion we've failed -- that's my responsibility and my accountability and I take that," conceded Ellerbe.

The D.C. Fire Department and the process of accountability haven't always been forthcoming.

The Deputy Mayor for Public Safety failed to release the final report on the death of Cecil Mills in its entirety, leaving dozens of pages out of the public report.

It's been nearly two weeks since the conclusion of the trial board for Lt. Kellene Davis where the media and the Mills family were shut out.

"If it were up to me the fire trial board would be open. I think people need to see what goes on, I think they need to hear what goes on in the trial board," said Ellerbe, adding that it is up to the trial board - a group of appointed firefighters - about whether to make the hearings public or not.

There is still no decision by the panel on a recommendation for disciplinary action for the top commander in charge the day her fire house refused to render aid to Mills, despite people begging them for help.

Cecil Mills,77 suffered from a heart attack in late January and died steps from Engine 26 on Rhode Island Avenue NE.

Chief Ellerbe said that there is no timetable on when the panel will release their recommendation but they will be sure to release transcripts from their hearing.

There were people who had the chief's back Thursday night, saying that the fire department should not be judged by the actions of a few.

But that was not enough for an impassioned Mills, who said he expected more from the fire department and the city at large.

He said, "This is the Nation's Capital. This should be the flagship for everything this country should stand for and it's not."


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