LA City Fire Chief Sounds Alarm About Hiring Crisis

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The L.A. City Fire Department is sounding an alarm about staffing caused by budget cuts.

Acting L.A. City Fire Chief James Featherstone warned the City Council Wednesday of an ongoing hiring crisis, noting the number of firefighters on the payroll has shrunk from 3,213 to 2,853 since 2008.

“We have considerable vacancies due to the cutbacks,” he said.

CBS2’s Randy Paige reports the City Council is responding to a L.A. County Grand Jury report released last summer which called on the city to restore the funding lost in the budget cuts of 2008 that resulted in the loss of ambulances in some city fire stations.

City Councilmember Mitch Englander said the cutbacks were made as a result of faulty data that predicted fewer ambulances would not increase response times.

“They came up with conclusions that weren’t real,” Englander said. He insisted it’s time for the city to get real about the resources needed for the fire department to do its job – beginning with training more recruits to fill the vacancies.

“We’re going to make sure we get those drill towers up and get as many new recruits in the system as quickly as possible,” Englander continued.

Chief Featherstone said technology can help the department leverage its resources by accurately measuring where services are needed and can also assist in handling medical emergencies more efficiently.

One element missing from the discussion was how the city will pay for these new resources.

Those budget issues were not on Wednesday’s agenda.

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