LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In the wake of the bombings in Boston, labor groups representing Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters voiced outrage Wednesday over the Fire Chief Brian Cumming’s new plan to divert approximately 60 firefighters from fire engines to ambulances in an effort to improve the city’s response to medical calls.
Firefighters unions and department commanders say the new plan increases the risk to first responders by reducing the resources available to fight structure fires. Captain Frank Lima, head of the United Firefighters Union of Los Angeles City, told KNX1070’s Ed Mertz the department would struggle if the city were to suffer an event similar to Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.
“If we have any type of big catastrophic event our fire department as we sit right now is going to be overwhelmed,” said Lima.
Battalion Chief Armando Hogan acknowledged that such a situation would be difficult for the department.
“We also have to face the fact that with only 953 firefighters on duty every day and a city of over 4 million residents, a situation like that would be a challenge,” said Hogan.
According to an independent analysis by the Los Angeles Times, medical emergencies now make up more than 80 percent of the city’s 911 emergency calls. Firefighters are not licensed paramedics and would staff non-paramedic units as trained emergency medical technicians, freeing up paramedic units to respond to life-threatening situations. The plan also calls for adding 11 new ambulances.
Tuesday’s announcement by Fire Chief Cummings comes amidst continued criticism of the chief’s leadership of the department and its 911 response times.
His plan is expected to go into effect on May 5.