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Category: Fire

LAFD delays key emergency response reforms

La-dispatcher-20121119
Withdrawn LAFD restoration plan

The Los Angeles Fire Department has delayed two reform measures designed to respond to the controversy over its diminished resources and faulty response times, according to LAFD officials at Tuesday’s meeting of the city Fire Commission.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings told the panel he’s pulling back for more study an ambitious plan called for by the City Council that would boost the department’s ranks and aim to lift its sagging response times. At the same meeting, the commissioner leading the overhaul of the LAFD’s faulty data analysis said the effort to put the department’s process on solid footing was behind schedule and would not meet an April deadline.

The department's performance has been under increased scrutiny since last March when fire officials admitted to publishing response times that made it appear rescuers arrived at emergencies faster than they actually did.

A series of Times investigations followed that identified problems or delays in processing 911 calls, summoning the nearest medical rescuers from other jurisdictions as well as wide gaps in response times in different parts of the city.

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LAFD chief wants 911 dispatch center linked to other fire agencies

The Los Angeles Fire Department will upgrade its 911 dispatch center to work with neighboring fire agencies and help ensure the closest available rescuers are sent to victims during life-threatening emergencies, Chief Brian Cummings said Wednesday.

A Times analysis of city and county records published in October found that in more than 70,000 emergency medical calls since 2007, the LAFD sent its own rescuers to victims despite the fact that Los Angeles County firehouses were closer to the scene.

More than 1,300 of those cases involved cardiac arrests, in which seconds can mean the difference between life and death. In two cases highlighted by The Times, cardiac arrest victims died after waiting for LAFD units when county help was closer.

In an interview with The Times editorial board, Cummings said he would like to see a seamless network that connects dispatch systems across municipal borders. The LAFD is in the early stages of developing a new computer system designed to work with neighboring dispatch centers, although other agencies will have to pay for similar upgrades to make the plan work.

Potential partners include the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Long Beach Fire Department and the consolidated dispatch center that covers Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena and nine other cities, Cummings said.

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Three people seriously burned in Calabasas house fire

Three people were buned in a house fire in this area.
Three people were seriously burned in a structure fire Monday evening near Malibu Creek State Park, officials said.

The ages of the victims were not known, and they were still being treated at the scene shortly before 6 p.m., the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

The blaze broke out shortly after 5 p.m. in a home in 600 block of Crater Camp Drive in the Calabasas area, according to the Fire Department.

It was unclear what sparked the blaze. No other details were immediately available.

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Photo: Map shows where fire was reported. Credit: Google Maps

Small fire damages Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley

A fire broke out early Friday morning at the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, but a sprinkler system may have saved the entire building from going up in flames, Bay Area TV stations reported.

Only a small dining area in the front of the restaurant was damaged, according to KGO-TV in San Francisco.

A Berkeley Fire Department official told a TV station that most of the restaurant could reopen as soon as the health department gives clearance.

Founded in 1971 by a group that included chef Alice Waters, Chez Panisse was a pioneer in the organic, locally grown food movement.

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Ex-Marine pleads no contest in North Hollywood arson fires

Photo: Investigators believe as many as 18 vehicle fires, including those set in North Hollywood Sunday morning, may be connected. Credit: KTLA-TV A former U.S. Marine convicted of arson fires while stationed in Japan more than a decade ago pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that he ignited several vehicle and motor home fires in North Hollywood.

Kurt Kaye Billie, 35, entered his plea to two counts of arson of an inhabited structure and one count of aggravated arson. As part of his plea, he admitted setting 21 fires to vehicles and motor homes in July and August 2011 in the North Hollywood area.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney said some of the fires spread to nearby inhabited structures, including apartment buildings, and two people suffered smoke inhalation.

Billie will be sentenced May 6 and as part of the plea agreement will receive 10 years in prison from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Jesic. The former Marine also admitted being convicted of arson in Okinawa, Japan, when he was stationed there in 2001, Carney said.

Billie made international news when he was arrested for burning seven restaurants and bars in Chatan in central Okinawa during two separate arsons. The judge found Billie criminally responsible for the 2001 attacks, noting he "was drunk and made the attacks to escape from reality," according to an Associated Press report of the verdict.

He caused more than $1 million damage in North Hollywood, authorities said.

A restitution hearing will be held at a later date.

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Body found in mobile-home fire in Monrovia

Image: Map shows location of where a body was found in Monrovia. Source: Google Maps
Authorities Sunday were investigating the death of a man who was found in a burned-out mobile home in Monrovia.

Firefighters were dispatched to the home in the 2500 block of Peck Road about 8:46 a.m. Saturday and found it fully engulfed in flames. The remains of a badly burned adult male was discovered in the debris, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.

Authorities did not release the identity of the man pending notification of next of kin. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Image: Map shows location of where a body was found in Monrovia. Source: Google Maps

Full containment of Riverside County fire expected tonight

Fire officials have made significant progress in suppressing a 300-acre wildfire near Jurupa Hills and full containment was expected by 8 p.m. Saturday, authorities said.

The fire that ignited Thursday along the vegetated Santa Ana River bottom between Riverside and an unincorporated part of Riverside County was now 80% contained and the area burned was not expected to increase, said Jody Hagemann, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County Fire Department.

Hagemann said a team of six engines, two fire crews and two water tenders would continue to “work on some hot spots” amid temperatures forecast to rise into the 80s.

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Riverside County fire 40% contained, 2 structures damaged

Firefighters faced hot, windy conditions Friday as they worked to contain a fire burning in Riverside County that has damaged one home and one other structure.

The fire near in Jurupa Hills spans 311 acres, Riverside County Fire Department officials said. Crews had the flames 40% contained Friday afternoon.

A house near the Santa Ana River bottom, where the fire is still smoldering, caught fire when sparks jumped from the river and landed on the roof, officials said. An outbuilding not connected to the house also caught fire.

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for Riverside County on Friday morning, warning that firefighters and residents could experience winds between 15 and 25 mph and gusts as strong as 45 mph.

“As long as the weather holds out, we’re good,”said Greg Birchfield, a Fire Department spokesman. “But if it gets windy, it can really take off.”

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At least two injured in explosion at Sport Chalet in La Canada Flintridge

Explosion1
At least two people were burned Friday morning after an explosion ripped through a Sport Chalet in La Canada Flintridge.

Just before 10 a.m., Los Angeles County fire officials received a report of an explosion at the sporting goods store near the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway.

Televised aerial footage showed a person being wheeled into an ambulance on a gurney. Officials said more injuries could be reported.

The two injured people were both employees of the store, said Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Cynthia Gonzales of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station, according to the La Canada Valley Sun.

Preliminary information indicates the explosion was caused by natural gas, fire inspector Tony Imbrenda said. The official cause of the explosion remains under investigation.

There was no active fire at the Sport Chalet, officials said. A hazardous-materials team was on scene.

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Photo: Emergency personnel at the scene of an explosion ripped through a Sport Chalet in La Canada Flintridge. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Firefighters battle Riverside blaze before winds kick up

A wildfire that destroyed more than 200 acres of palm trees and brush remained 30% contained Friday as firefighters battled to surround it before winds picked up.

The National Weather Service imposed a wind advisory in Riverside and San Diego counties early Friday morning, and meteorologists warned that residents could see gusts as strong as 35 mph until 4 p.m. Firefighting crews had hoped that calmer winds would allow them to attack the blaze overnight.

About 200 firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze, which came dangerously close to homes, officials said. Crews were assisted by a water-dropping helicopter and 24 engine companies.

Authorities lifted voluntary evacuation orders for residents living on Greenbrier Drive and Grassy Trail in the city of Riverside.

The fire began along the Santa Ana River bottom between Riverside and an unincorporated part of the county about 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, officials said. Flames as high as 30 feet quickly spread through the south end of the Rancho Jurupa Regional Park, northwest of Riverside Municipal Airport.

Power was restored to Riverside residents who had lost service Thursday. Officials reported that power lines were down Thursday, but it was unclear whether those lines had caused the fire.

Earlier Thursday, the temperature at the nearby Riverside airport hit an unseasonable 80 degrees and light Santa Ana winds fanned the flames. Friday's high is expected to be around 84 degrees, the weather service said.

On Thursday, a backyard trailer went up in flames about a quarter-mile from the fire lines in a neighborhood where embers were flying. No injuries were reported.

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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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