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More LAFD firehouses needed in hill areas, councilman says

November 16, 2012 |  6:00 am

INTERACTIVE: Check LAFD response times in your neighborhood

New firehouses should be built in Los Angeles' hillside neighborhoods, where rescuers take longer to reach victims in need, a city councilman said.

Bill Rosendahl -- whose Westside district includes Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and Bel-Air -- said he plans to introduce a motion Friday morning directing Los Angeles Fire Department officials to explore ways to speed up response times.

His call follows a Times analysis that showed that, on average, residents in many of the city’s hilly communities wait minutes longer for fire crews to arrive than people who live in more densely packed areas in and around downtown. Rosendahl said he would like to see more rescue units added to his district to help correct that problem in the short term.

INTERACTIVE: Check LAFD response times in your neighborhood

“The long-term solution will require a combination of additional resources and the construction of new fire stations,” he said. “There’s just no other way around this reality.” 

Last year, Rosendahl fought unsuccessfully to save a fire engine in Pacific Palisades that was taken out of service during a round of budget cuts that shuttered units at more than 20% of the city's stations. He said in a statement Thursday that he has long been concerned about “the geographic isolation” of the hillside communities he represents.

911 BREAKDOWNS AT LAFD: Full Coverage

"Now, when any of my fire stations are tied up on an emergency incident and another call comes in, help is going to have to come from much further away,” he said. “This is the scenario I worry about the most and where the lengthiest delays occur."

The Times analysis of more than 1 million Fire Department dispatches over the past five years found that, citywide, the first unit to reach victims in medical emergencies came from a more distant station at least 15% of the time.

When that happened the delays caused were less pronounced in areas with a high concentration of fire stations, The Times analysis found.

Those coverage gaps regularly created long delays in parts of the city with fewer stations, including in the east San Fernando Valley, the southern edge of Playa del Rey and some neighborhoods in the Santa Monica Mountains.

In Bel-Air, rescuers failed to meet the six-minute response time standard nearly 90% of the time, in part because more distant rescuers had to be dispatched in hundreds of 911 calls. In those cases, they took nearly 11 1/2 minutes on average to reach those needing medical help.

Rosendahl said he plans to ask the LAFD to conduct a comprehensive study to identify where new fire stations may be needed around the city, as well as how factors like traffic can be addressed.

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-- Kate Linthicum, Ben Welsh and Robert J. Lopez

Image: Map shows more than 1 million Los Angeles Fire Department emergency responses. Credit: Los Angeles Times Data Desk

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