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

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

Comments () | Archives (16)

The firefighters do wonderful job putting fires out, however, i often wondered why they are the ones to respond to 911 calls when they are medical emergencies. My husband choked on something so my daughter called 911. A total of 8 firefighters walked into my house and left saying the thing choking my husband's throat cleared. Wrong, I had to take my husband to a nearby hospital myself and checked into emergency room. Firefighters should do firefighting and leave medical emergencies to better trained people at hospitals.

Firefighters respond to 911 calls because they are the ones trained in emergency medical response. Next time your husband chokes why don't you try calling your doctor, maybe he can tell you what to do.

They show up with 8 firefighters because the call was for "a man choking", which, obviously, is a life threatening emergency. That's how each call is treated because there really is no way of knowing what they will find until they get there.

You wouldn't be questioning why they all showed up if your husband had stopped breathing and they were all involved in cpr, running IV lines, etc and getting him to the hospital.

Hey, About Time:

Did you know that all LA Firefighters are EMTs? Did you know that nearly every fire station has a paramedic stationed there? The LAFD responds to more than 800 medical calls a day, and often, they are the only form of rapid intervention medical care available to the citizens of Los Angeles. Your situation is not a good one, but it could have happened in a hospital as well. Physicians are known to make life-threatening mistakes all the time, as decision making is part of the job. In face, there is a film coming out this fall, called FIRESTORM that deals with the LAFD being the defacto life/safety agency for Los Angeles. There is a trailer on YouTube.

In human health emergencies there is a factor the medical authorities call the "Golden Circle." It referes to the time element from when the potential catastrophic illness occurs and when the patient is delivered to good, quality medical care. LAFD recognized this early on and has endeavored to render the required assistance within that time frame. Now that ability is going to be altered.

It's about time!!! I know a few FF and they are always talking about how the "MILK" the OT!!! This cash cow is now DEAD! so deal with it....

Cutting funds to our elderly, our disabled, fire departments... this is so unethical to me, I can't believe it. Where is the common sense. Why don't we go after these non-profits that are filthy Rich... it's time for them to start paying taxes. Unions, and Churches for example. If Catholic Churches, Mormon Churches and all the others can afford such elaborate places of worship as well as getting involved politically then it's time to contribute. As for Unions.... give me a break. They have too much money and too much power. Let's get real.

What is the logic of charging people for fire dept services? I mean you get into a car accident and you complain of pain to 911 to report the accident. Next thing you know a huge ladder truck and smaller trucks come and they ask you for your driver's license. Little do people know they are ringing up the bill to charge you. If you have a heart attack and the paramedics come and take you to the hospital get ready for a multi thousand dollar bill. Why does the city charge you for fire dept services when you pay property tax that are suppose to support the fire dept? You call 911 for the cops and at least the police don't charge you for arresting someone or making a report when they come. They only charge for false burglar alarms which is alot cheaper than fire services.

Just curious


Perhaps it's time to take a look at the ambulance resources available from the private sector. At last count, there were 60+ private ambulance companies providing services to the residents of Los Angeles County, with literally hundreds of ambulances available to respond.

The City Council should also check with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to review how many ambulances services have been granted permission over the last 5 years to perform non-emergency transportation services within the city. They may be suprised at the additional resources available.

Perhaps it's time to take a look at the ambulance resources available from the private sector. At last count, there were 60+ private ambulance companies providing services to the residents of Los Angeles County, with literally hundreds of ambulances available to respond.

The City Council should also check with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to review how many ambulances services have been granted permission over the last 5 years to perform non-emergency transportation services within the city. They may be suprised at the additional resources available.

The fire service wastes tax payer’s money by responding “fire fighters” in ladder trucks and other unnecessary equipment to medical aids. Most fire personnel do not want to respond to medical emergencies and act bothered by these calls, especially if it interrupts their meals or sleep time while working a 24 hour shift.

EMS should be delivered by properly trained and highly motivated medical personnel, not individuals showing up in dirty turn-outs for someone having abdominal pain or any other medical issue. If a patient needs extrication from a building or automobile, fine, the fire personnel should be used, but leave medicine to individuals interested in delivering the best medicine available to the public. Up to date and compassionate care is everyone’s right.

Cuts to the fire department, it is about time and in fact, the cuts should be severe. Let the private industry fill the void, they would do it with more enthusiasm and professionalism anyway. Not to mention, the private industry would be held accountable. In competence is covered up in the fire department.

1 - LAFD charges for cases in which they transport only. If they show up and it was a false alarm, they don't charge.
2 - Have you ever been to a public hospital, or do you ever plan on having public health insurance? Those institutions all charge to make up the gaps left after taxes don't cut it. LAFD provides trained medical response - why shouldn't they charge for their services as well?

After reading some of these posts, as an "old timer" LAFD Firefighter and Paramedic I felt compelled to respond to some comments. First off, the LAFD uses their Firefighters and Paramedics very efficiently. All LAFD Firefighters are EMT's and the majority of Paramedics are Firefighters. ALL are dedicated to public service. Fire Engines and Trucks will respond ahead of, or with the ambulance because it is much more cost efficient to send the closest fire company with trained personnel when minutes count. We could add a hundred more ambulances to make sure you get someone on scene in the maximum 6 minutes, or, we could do double duty.

Few people realize that we respond to 1500 runs every 24 hours. We transport over 500 patients to local emergency rooms each day. Each year we have over 250 Major Emergency Fires, requiring over 100 Firefighters to protect the lives and property of our communities. While I may not totally agree with the UFLAC Flyer, we handle these types of events daily. If your trapped in car or swept into a raging storm drain, does it seem any less important at that time than having 50 or 100 patients.

Someone stated that WE are only concerned about our paycheck. Really? What exactly is the union holding out for. Now that we have the resources closed, do we get our raise? Following that logic, we should be happy they are closing Fire and Paramedic resources, just shut up about it, and go for a raise. Unfortunately, you are misinformed, it just isn't happening that way.

You must be upset because of the last time we couldn't settle a contract and we went on strike. Oh, wait a minute, in over 100 years, we have never gone on strike. We have never refused to respond, and many of my friends have sacrificed their lives making sure that you are protected.

As a Firefighter who has been injured, many times requiring surgery, been exposed to chemicals and hazardous materials, been shot at and beat up, responded to Brush Fires, Floods, Riots, Earthquakes, and seen every grotesque medical emergency you can imagine, I resent anyone that believes I am only in this for the money.

As always, I believe we, as Firefighters and Paramedics, are held to a much higher standard than other professions. And, I as a Firefighter and Paramedic thank the you the community for holding us to that standard and the support you give us.

In response to Ron, the long-time LAFD Firefighter/Paramedic. Your system is NOT efficient. You and your co-workers (fellow union members) are all very well trained on the IAFF talking points. The only problem is that people ARE finally realizing that you have been milking the system for years. You need to stick to fighting fires and let EMS providers who REALLY DO want to provide high quality pre-hospital care to those who need it.

Hey Scott, do you live your life to save people? Are you trained in emergency medical care? EMT-Basic is over 130 hours of medical training, Paramedics spend over a year to receive their training.

Until you actually spend 24 hours on call to assist anyone and everyone from both fire and infirmity I ask that you show respect for those that put their life on the line to make sure that when you go to sleep at night you know that people are looking out for you.

As a volunteer Firefighter in the middle of my EMT course I ask that you be thankful for what you have and live in a country where there are people and a government that do actually care enough to pay people to be there when you need them.

There is no difference between an EMT on an ambulance and an EMT on a fire engine, when in fact most of the time people refuse transport anyway. In fact that extra minute can mean your life.

And how will paying a private ambulance company with taxpayer dollars be any different than hiring additional firefighters and EMTs?

And since you probably voted against that extra half cent tax to help solve the problems you are worried about then stop being disrespectful. If you don't like it here then leave America and see who will look out for you there.

America has the best pre-hospital care in the world. People spend their whole lives wanting to do what you just slammed in their faces. Grow up.

A Seventeen Year Old

My mother died in LA on the night of August 10 ,2009.It took nearly 35 minutes before the ambulance/firetruck came.We were on vacation and were staying in a hotel by the airport. They attended to her for almost half hour after that and she died 15 minutes after reaching the hospital. She was having a cardiac arrest and none of the firemen/woman saw it.Had she been given an asprin or the required emergency care at that time she could have been still alive.She had just turned 73 . I dont think those firemen were trained to administer proper emergency medical care.They did not realize she was having a cardiac arrest? She was showing all the signs.... vomiting and diahreaa,sweating underarms,cold and pain in her arms.


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