It's All Starting to Come Out Now
THE VIGOROUS CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR of Los Angeles (California) is exposing more failures of the City Council and the Mayor. Among the agencies which are coming up short is the Fire Department. That fine agency has been undermined by the current mayor who has slashed the FD budget by 16% in recent years, instituted rotating station brown-outs, and eliminated units from one-fourth of the city's 106 fire stations. All this time the mayor and Fire Chief Brian Cummings have been saying that the department is doing okay despite the large cuts.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings
discuss response times and deployment at a March 13 news conference.
(Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2012)
But one of their "proofs" of success, the average response times were found to be based on jiggered numbers and are really noticably slower than they had admitted to. (See the Firegeezer article from March 11, LAFD Admits Inflating Response Times Favorably HERE.) As more people from the political opposition and reporters from the local press start looking behind the facade, even more deception is being exposed. Yesterday (Saturday) a columnist for the Los Angeles Times unloaded on the mayor and fire chief for the deterioration of the FD since they have taken control. Some quotes from Stephen Lopez's detailed commentary indicate that all might not be well in the city:
Nobody was lying, we're told. But the Fire Department has now switched to a more accurate formula for tracking response times.
How hard can this be? Your house is on fire, you call the Fire Department, and they show up in either four minutes, five, six, 10, whatever. Does it have to be more complicated than that?
It was on the basis of the rosier information that the mayor and council agreed to big cuts. Now Fire Chief Brian Cummings admits the department should have made clear that it had switched to a different formula, and both he and Villaraigosa tell us both formulas were accurate.
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They also said public safety hasn't been compromised by the mothballing of equipment as part of a plan to save $200 million over three years. How could it not be compromised?
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"This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape," says Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.
"Forty percent of the time we are not getting there in time to prevent brain death," said McOsker, referring to the length of time it generally takes for someone who's not breathing to suffer lasting injury.
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Mid-City resident Mike Eveloff has been doing his own spade work, demanding Fire Department records and crunching numbers. When you remove equipment from service and shutter or partially shutter fire stations, you're playing a game of Russian roulette, said Eveloff.
"You see them on longer and longer runs because they don't have as many firefighters. As an example, my station, 92, they were sent 14 miles away to the eastern part of Hollywood with red lights and siren. It's happening all the time," said Eveloff.
"If you look into the eyes of these guys, they are beat to death."
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"When I first came on, retirement was a sad day for the retiree. Now it seems like the retiree can't leave soon enough."
Apparently the shell game has extended into the maintenance division. A combination of harder usage on the trucks coupled with a 30% reduction in the number of mechanics has left the fleet shaky and unreliable as more reserve apparatus are being used while normal repairs are backlogged as much as a month. Now the reserve fleet is failing from the excess work.
Read Steve Lopez's entire commentary HERE.
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The LA Times has followed up with a separate article about the falling-apart of the emergency dispatch center. They tell about a day recently where a woman had her hand mangled in a piece of machinery and had to wait 45 minutes before any help arrived because the dispatch system had just failed:
The dismemberment occurred March 7, when a brief equipment failure left dispatchers unable to alert fire stations. At a firehouse in Harbor Gateway near Torrance, just a mile from the bleeding woman, the alarms never rang, according to firefighters.
"I was in horrible, horrible pain," said Wafer, 36, who was later told by a doctor that too much time had elapsed to reattach her finger.
Firegeezer comments: I find it amazing that nobody in that huge dispatch center had the presence of mind to call the nearest station by land line and get a unit started right away. Don't you have to take a test or something in order to work there?
Read the detailed article on problems at the 9-1-1 center HERE.
Firegeezer adds further: Having observed the LA Times' past behavior which includes dubious reporting by partial disclosure of facts and events, I recommend that we pause and give the FD time to get back to work on Monday and see if they address these charges.
Hat tip to: Mike T.
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