Inexplicable move at DC Fire & EMS

Photo courtesy of
‘District #4’
courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

Late yesterday, it was revealed that longtime DC Fire & EMS public information officer Pete Piringer, the name behind the amazing @dcfireems, had been shuffled around in a personnel move. Piringer will be moving away from the @dcfireems handle, recently embroiled in a bit of controversy, which saw the account taking a break, and a lot of concerns and accusations flying about the role of the twitter account.

For me, the account’s purpose is simple and obvious: provide realtime information about serious fires and other emergencies in the DC area, as well as contact information for the media to get updates. Piringer has done the job with incredible aplomb for the last few years, keeping the media and public, alike, abreast of the situations

This afternoon, Mark Segraves from WTOP broke the news that the mayor’s office may have been involved in Piringer’s ouster: “Piringer was prolific in his tweeting of breaking news and information, but sources inside the mayor’s office say there was blowback from other agencies that Piringer’s tweets were making them look slow and unresponsive.”

While everyone involved is saying the right things, this move stinks to high heaven of transferring a popular and effective member of the staff to an exile they don’t deserve under the guise of a promotion or temporary assignment. Piringer will move from the DC Fire & EMS department to the rough and tumble excitement of the Office of the Secretary.

If you, like me, had no idea what the Office of the Secretary is, well, read this delightful description of their mission: “The Office of the Secretary provides protocol, authentication and public records management services to the Mayor and District government agencies.  In addition to managing the District of Columbia’s Archives, commissioning all District of Columbia Notaries Public, and publishing the District of Columbia Register and the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR), the Office of the Secretary is responsible for maintaining official records of mayoral actions, receiving legal process for actions against the Mayor, and preparing executive orders, proclamations, directives, and administrative issuances.

Sounds riveting.

No question they need a top-notch PIO, who can respond at a moment’s notice about…the latest proclamation from the Mayor honoring someone.


This is another move by the Gray Administration that has to leave me scratching my head. While I’m sure any city agency could use the likes of Piringer (with the exception of perhaps DDOT, who has John Lisle, and DCRA, who has Helder Gil, both of whom are as good as Piringer has been at DC Fire & EMS), it seems odd to move him to the obscurity of the Office of the Secretary. Though, with him there, I expect to see a high profile for the newest notary publics and mayoral proclamations that are likely to come down the pike.

Otherwise, the picture is a whole lot less rosy, making it appear that the Mayor and his cabinet love lazy cronyism more than we had already thought.

So far, the new @dcfireems leaves a lot to be desired.

Mayor Gray w/ Sparky the Fire Dog, McGruff the Crime Dog, etc.

Chief Ellerbe with Msgr. Mosley after his offering a Fire Prev Wk...



While Piringer would often toss in reminders to change your smoke alarm batteries, there was about 90% meat and 10% fluff in that account, while now it seems to be photo ops and cloying preparation tweets.

So, with everyone saying the right things, but doing the wrong ones, I suppose all we can do is say, “if this is really a matter of making this other place great, let’s see it be great, and if you think you can do it without making @dcfireems suck, prove it. So far Gruff the crime dog is not convincing us.”

Don’t fuck up a good thing, Mr. Mayor. You’ve done enough of that already.


I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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14 thoughts on “Inexplicable move at DC Fire & EMS

  1. Great piece, but please stop with the DC Fire and EMS. We are DCFD. Ellerbe and the new mayor hate the name DCFD. You are making me sick, and them happy. Thanks, props to Pete.

  2. Its a shame to be sure. Whats even more a shame is the dismantling of the improved EMS system we have worked so hard to create over the last handful of years. Under this admin and the current fire chief the morale of the troops and their willingness to go above and beyond is lessened greatly. Nothing earth shattering has been done with EMS in 10 months, but there has been GREAT concern over small admin issues and what color socks a fireman or paramedic might be wearing on any given day….lol

    I’m just sad I have several years on the job now and it would be a poor move to go elsewhere and start over. Oh well.

  3. Just one more shot at the great DCFD (not FEMS; that is a name by Mendelson and the trash know publicly as Chief Ellerbe)
    The citizens have no idea how badly the members of the DCFD are being treated while at work. History has proven that the members of this great department will adapt and overcome to provide a service to those in need and will never let those citizens down during an emergency. With that said it is blindingly apparent that the city and administration are taking full advantage of the dedication of the members by over working by means of out of job description details, forcing them to spend yet more of their own money on uniforms, with zero compensation.
    Morale has never been lower due to tirencey by the new fire chief. He leads by intimidation and fear. He has brought nothing new to the department except a racial divide and hostility towards the members. He has an agenda from years past and is taking it out on the current members of the department. He is a liar and a cheat.
    Mendelson needs to learn more about the agency and stop holding a grudge because of the PERSONAL problems with the last chief. He has no idea how the agency really operates. Its clear by watching any oversight hearings. All he cares about is the overtime budget. What he and the department fail to tell the public is members working overtime do not receive time and a half pay. Its all straight time. The overtime budget is not enough to cover an agency that big. Especially when you have to figure for unforeseen situations. It is the nations capital people. Things happen here you can’t plan for! Metro accidents, snow storms of epic sizes, etc.
    this should be yet ANOTHER eye opener that the current Mayor and fire chief are crooks and only in this for themselves. They don’t care about you or anyone else (unless you are a family member who needs a job or a relative who needs a promotion, or a high school buddy in need of a high paying job)
    That twitter account gave you up to date information. Now you are in the dark. So much for a transparent system. The only thing transparent is we can clearly see they are a joke. Thank the mayor and chief because you are now “one city” that is less informed about what is going on in your back yards!

  4. Just so I understand this correctly – Piringer is getting shuffled because he was actually efficient at doing his job, thus making other people, who aren’t doing their jobs, look bad?

    You’ve got to be kidding me.

  5. Yea Art, along with his partner Freeman from The Wire….lol. Love that show, best writting I’ve ever seen.

  6. I wish the FBI would do like they did in New Jersey several years ago… just come in and lock up the entire City Council! The skeletons in all of their closets are growing skeletons!

  7. Maybe a good old dose of DOJ is what this fair city needs:) They would all least certainly have shady tax shit going on, I mean, dont all politicians?

  8. FYI…The name has been DC Fire & EMS since 1987. But, there is nothing wrong with DCFD on the shirts.

  9. The greatest dept in the nation has an embarrassing history of incompetent fire chiefs.This one will make the rest look good.

  10. Somebody needs to tell the truth and I guess I have to do it. There have always been racial tension in the dc fire & ems department. So please stop trying to act like it didn’t exist until Chief Ellerbe. Racial tension reached its peak under the Rubin administration. The Union has continued to pick and choose who they want to represent in most cases. The divide has been here for a long time and Chief Ellerbe so far has been as fair as he can be in mostly everything he has done so far. So please stop the faking about racial tension because it has been here and as of right now this department is being run with even handness which offends some people because they like it when they can do whatever they want and not face reppercutions. Also tradition only matters when it is in the favor of the white firefighters and not the black firefighters. Fuck DCFD lets start a new with a DC fire & ems.

  11. Why does this move by the Mayor’s office surprise anyone — I have lived in the DC area my entire life and constantly amazed at the political process in the District. Pete is without a doubt one of the best in the country at what he does and tying his hands like this is a huge step backwards —

    If everyone would concern themselves about doing the work that is best for the city and not worry about their own personal agendas then the city might actually move forward.

    It seems that everyone is trying to see “what they can get” rather than what they can give. If everyone (not just the District) would focus on what they can give, then we would all be in a better place —