Wednesday, April 27, 2011

LA Times: City of LA Plan Would Cut Fire and Ambulance Services

Southern California -- this just in

L.A. plan would cut 18 fire companies, four ambulances

Firefighters take part in a drill in Century City.
A proposal to cut 18 fire companies and four ambulances from the Los Angeles Fire Department is to be considered Wednesday by a City Council committee amid opposition from leaders of the firefighters union.

The proposed cuts are contained in the $6.9-billion budget unveiled last week by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The cuts would save the city more than $53 million in the next fiscal year, and nearly $200 million over three years, according to Los Angeles Fire Chief Millage Peaks. They would also put an end to rotating staff reductions.

Every day, the Fire Department temporarily closes 22 fire companies and six ambulance teams in order to save money, Peaks said. The firefighters from the closed companies fill in for staff at other companies who are sick or on vacation, which cuts down on overtime.

The moves were instituted in 2009 after the department was dealt a $39-million budget reduction. They were meant as a "stop-gap," Peaks said, and not as a permanent solution.

He called the temporary closures "very disruptive." The department proposed the permanent closure of 18 fire companies and four ambulances at stations across the city in order to eliminate the temporary shutdowns and create "long-term structural change," according to a report sent to the mayor that details the redeployment of department resources.

Millage said the department determined which companies should go with the help of a computer program that measured which companies were most in demand. Under the proposal, no firefighters would be laid off, but firefighters from several threatened companies have protested the proposed closures.

At a news conference Tuesday at Fire Station 38 in Wilmington, City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she would fight the proposed cuts. The station would lose a hook-and-ladder truck and a pumper truck under the proposed reductions.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hahn is to be joined by firefighters and leaders from United Firefighters of Los Angeles City at a news conference at City Hall, shortly before the council's Budget and Finance Committee takes up the mayor's budget.

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