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L.A. Fire Department cutbacks begin today; response times to increase

August 6, 2009 |  6:45 am

Controversial cutbacks begin today at the Los Angeles Fire Department that officials admit will increase response times.

As part of the cuts, 15 firetrucks and six ambulances are being pulled out of service daily on a rotating basis citywide. Firefighters assigned to those units will be used to plug staff vacancies, which for years have been filled by calling other employees in for overtime.

In an effort to close a $56.5-million budget shortfall, three additional ambulances in Sylmar, Hollywood and East Hollywood were closed indefinitely on Sunday. Those ambulances, staffed by firefighters for 12-hour periods, eased the burden on busy paramedic ambulances by responding to lower-level emergencies.

Also eliminated indefinitely were three positions for captains who supervise paramedics in the field and serve as emergency-room liaisons. Many contend that cut is dangerous.

Fire Chief Douglas Barry said last month that the cutbacks would create longer response times for both medical emergency and fire calls, but he declined to speculate if that could lead to an increase in deaths.

On Wednesday, dozens of firefighters converged on City Hall, asking that the cuts be postponed.

--Shelby Grad