LAFD Ambulance Plan Proceeds Despite Opposition

April 25, 2013
The six-month pilot program to add ambulances around the city is set to start May 5.

April 25--Despite opposition from the command staff and the rank-and-file, Fire Chief Brian Cummings has sent out a notice detailing the plans to add ambulances at 11 fire stations around the city as a way to reduce response times and deal with medical calls.

Cummings said the six-month pilot program to start May 5 will take one firefighter from 22 light forces now assigned throughout the city. It will add rescue ambulances at five stations based in the San Fernando Valley.

Councilman Mitch Englander, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, is to be briefed on the plan and expects to discuss it at Friday's committee meeting.

In a memo, Cummings said he is implementing the plan even as the City Council considers Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed $7.7 billion budget that provides new funding to hire more firefighters.

"Until funding is provided, I will initiate an Ambulance Augmentation/Staffing Reconfiguration that provides for 11 newly created (basic life support) rescue ambulances," Cummings wrote.

"Eighty-four percent of our requests for service are emergency medical service related."

Cummings said his job as fire chief requires him to consider all aspects of public safety, including firefighter safety.

"The constraints of our budget require that I balance many competing interests as I effectively deploy the most appropriate resources that

match the type and frequency of our deployment."

UFLAC and Command Officers Association officials said they do not quarrel with the need for more ambulances. However, they are concerned that it is being done with no increase in staffing.

"We have a considerable amount of concerns," said Brian Schultz, a member of the Chief Officer Association board of directors. "Normally, our job is to implement the policies of the chief, but we don't agree with this. Yes, we need more ambulances, but we need to see the funding to staff them.

"At some point, we need to have a conversation on what kind of fire services we have. If we had two major fires in Los Angeles, we would struggle to handle those."

The command officers are concerned that by taking away one firefighter, it could place the other at risk and reduces the ability of commanders to keep track of the firefighters during an emergency.

UFLAC President Frank Lima went further.

"This ambulance plan is reckless," Lima said. "We have not had any real meetings about this and he is unilaterally changing working conditions and workloads and putting people in jeopardy."

Under the proposal, Cummings' plan would place the ambulances in stations that now are only light forces of six members each. One firefighter from that station would be assigned to the ambulance along with a firefighter now based at a task force station where there are 12 firefighters.

Valley area stations to get an ambulance include Fire Station 78, 4041 Whitsett Ave., Studio City; Fire Station 75, 15345 San Fernando Mission, Mission Hills; Fire Station 96, 21800 Marilla St., Chatsworth and Fire Station 74, 7777 Foothill Blvd., Sunland-Tujunga.

Stations selected were based on the number of calls coming in from that area.

Cummings and the LAFD have been under criticism for the past year on response times and whether the information provided officials was accurate.

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Copyright 2013 - Daily News, Los Angeles

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