LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Changes to the management structure of the Los Angeles Fire Department – including more job stability for fire chiefs – along with an overhaul of the agency’s paramedic operations will help reduce concerns over emergency response times and other departmental issues, according to a report released Monday.
The report (PDF) by PA Consulting found that the job of fire chief has devolved into a “revolving position, which has destabilized the LAFD” and that some deputy, assistant and battalion chiefs have been put in positions despite lacking “technical skills.”
After watching the Department’s budget increase from $472 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year to $550 million this year, the LAFD could bolster its finances by filling nearly 200 positions with civilian employees instead of sworn LAFD personnel, according to the report.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports analysts also found “significant challenges” that “seriously impair” the Department’s performance.
Given that Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responses have grown to approximately four-fifths of the LAFD’s call volume, the report also recommends creating a senior EMS position at the Deputy Chief rank or its equivalent to oversee “training, performance management and quality improvement functions.”
Since 2008, the LAFD has faced severe budget cuts, resulting in temporary closures, redeployment plans, and increases in emergency response times.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the LAFD needs to clearly outline its short-term goals before asking for more money from taxpayers.
“Funding ultimately will be part of the solution, but it can’t just be funding for funding’s sake,” Santana said.
The report comes on the heels of growing criticism of LAFD management after the Los Angeles Times reported that 20 percent of the people in the department’s most recent recruit class were related to current firefighters.
In a statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti said “reforming the Fire Department has been a key focus of [his] back-to-basics agenda since day one.”
Among a number of proposed changes under consideration by Garcetti include merging the LAPD and LAFD dispatch systems to reduce response times and reorganizing the Department into four geographic bureaus with a “commander-in-chief” for each, according to a statement.
Interim Los Angeles Fire Chief James Featherstone responded to the report by stating he remains “committed to enacting meaningful and effective changes to the structure and operations of the Los Angeles Fire Department, in order to continue providing the highest quality emergency medical and fire protection services to the citizens we serve.”
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