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Councilman seeks fire department report on emergency response data

Los Angeles Fire Department ladder truck. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine introduced a motion Friday ordering the Fire Department to prepare a report on how officials have calculated its emergency response times, which have come under fire because of inaccuracies in the figures.

The motion comes amid heightened scrutiny of the agency and questions about its transparency after The Times disclosed that fire officials had for years released data to the public and city officials showing that medical rescuers were arriving at emergencies faster than they actually were. 

The agency had maintained that firefighters were on scene in less than five minutes roughly 80% of the time. The department released new statistics showing fire crews actually arrived on scene within five minutes only 64% of the time in 2008.

DOCUMENT: City Council motion

They hit that mark even less often in the following two years, fire officials acknowledged. A 90% standard is used by departments across the country to gauge their performance in life-and-death emergencies.
Councilman Zine Orders LAFD Review
Some council members, including Zine, said they were disturbed because they relied on the inaccurate numbers to vote on budget cuts that eliminated fire engines and ambulances at about one-fifth of the city's 106 fire stations.

"The fire department has admitted that the numbers they gave us were not accurate. That's the concern," Zine told The Times. "We need to maintain public trust and confidence."

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said this week that his agency should have acknowledged sooner that it changed the way it calculated its emergency figures. But he said the department had been "consistent" because it never used old and new data together to draw comparisons.

City Controller Wendy Greuel has said her office was launching a probe of the response times and the effect of the budget cuts on public safety. She met this week with fire officials, and her auditing team will begin its work early next week, spokeswoman Shannon Murphy said Friday.

Zine, who chairs the Audits & Government Efficiency Committee, said his panel would also probe the department's handling of emergency data.


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-- Robert J. Lopez


Photo: Los Angeles Fire Department engine. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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