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Los Angeles Fire Department to reduce staffing

December 31, 2010 |  1:55 pm

The Los Angeles Fire Department will impose a new round of reductions in fire staffing starting Sunday, part of its effort to slash expenses in a bad budget year, department officials said this week.

Fire Chief Millage Peaks said the department will decrease by seven the number of fire companies that are on duty across the city. That means 22 of the department’s 153 companies will be closed each day on a rotating basis.

A company can be a four-person fire engine or a six-person hook-and-ladder truck accompanied by a pump vehicle.

Peaks said the latest plan will help the department erase a $30-million shortfall in a way that minimizes the effect on public safety. But Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, said he was troubled by the proposal and warned it would lead to delayed responses by emergency personnel and “preventable deaths.”

“During high-incident episodes there will be fire station districts with no fire companies in them, meaning whole neighborhoods will go unprotected,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Things are expected to be equally difficult for the department after July 1, when the city faces a new $350-million shortfall.

Since the budget crisis began, the department has imposed furloughs, offered early retirement to veteran employees and put in place a “modified” staffing plan that scaled back the number of engine companies by 15 on any given day.

McOsker said the department would be better served by redeploying dozens of staff assistants who are assigned to the department’s top brass. He said those employees spend much of their time serving as drivers and doing paperwork for the department’s chiefs.

The City Council has asked for a report on Fire Department deployment that would look at those positions, McOsker said.

Peaks said the department’s shortfall is so large that he could eliminate all of the staff assistants and would still need to scale back the number of fire companies. He also described the assistants as critical to the department, saying they help with the deployment of resources on the scene of emergencies.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure that the command-and-control element of the Los Angeles Fire Department is maintained in the event of a worst-case scenario, and the staff assistants are an integral part of that command and control,” he said.

-- David Zahniser

 

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