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L.A. firefighters say proposed budget cuts threaten their ability to battle brush fires

May 28, 2010 |  1:27 pm

Los Angeles firefighters and mechanics Friday said that budget cuts and proposed furloughs would severely affect the ability of firefighters to battle brush fires in the coming months.

Fire Department mechanics are leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere and with a hiring freeze in place, the shortage of mechanics means it takes up to four months – instead of one -- to repair firetrucks and ambulances, said Pat McOsker, a Los Angeles firefighter and president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

He said that with the city's proposed 26 furlough days, he feared it would be an even longer wait to have vehicles repaired. Through attrition and hiring freezes, the department is already down 25 positions in fleet services, from 97.

"We are on the cusp of brush fire season," said McOsker, who has worked 30 years for LAFD. "This is a disaster waiting to happen."

McOsker said that at his San Pedro station, there is a truck that has a disconnected foam pump. The light on top of the rig is broken. The brakes need to be adjusted.

The department dips into its reserve fleet when trucks are under repair, but 25% of those vehicles are out of service, he said. In total, about 70% of the department's fleet is out of service, he said.

"If we keep cutting mechanics' hours, our firefighters might have to go back to an old-fashioned bucket brigade when fire season hits in the coming weeks," said Tony Mastrolia, a mechanic at the Avenue 19 garage.

-- My-Thuan Tran