LA Fire Dept. Cuts To Ease $30M Budget Gap

Union warns move may lead to 'preventable deaths'

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles Fire Department is kicking off 2011 by further reducing staffing to help save money.

Chief Millage Peaks said he would take seven fire companies off the daily roster, meaning that 22 of the department’s 153 companies will be out of service each day on a rotating basis, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The staffing reduction should help Peaks cut a $30 million budget deficit in a way that does not put public safety at risk.

More Cutbacks Could Be Coming to Fire Department and Other Agencies as LA Tries to Eliminate Debt, KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz Reports

But union boss Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, said he was troubled by the idea, warning that it would lead to delayed responses and “preventable deaths.”

“During high-incident episodes there will be fire station districts with no fire companies in them, meaning whole neighborhoods will go unprotected,” he wrote in an e-mail.

When the new fiscal year starts July 1, the city will be facing a $350 million deficit, and the mayor could call on Peaks for further staffing reductions.

A company, in LAFD vernacular, can be a four-person fire engine, or a six-person hook-and-ladder truck accompanied by a pump vehicle.

The fire department has imposed furloughs, offered early retirement to veteran employees and put in place a staffing plan that has scaled back the number of engine companies by 15 on any given day.

Staff assistants, who act as drivers and secretaries to high-ranking firefighters, could be reassigned next.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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