LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An investigation by CBS2’s David Goldstein caught employees from various public agencies parking in front of fire hydrants – not on emergencies, but while going to lunch.
Most drivers are slapped with a $68 fine for parking within 15 feet of a hydrant, but for public workers, we found the city of Los Angeles lets them get away with it.
“How come you don’t ticket the DWP guy at the fire hydrant?” Goldstein asked one parking-enforcement officer.
Parking in front of a fire hydrant can be a serious public-safety issue. In Boston last April, firefighters had to make their own path through a car in order to feed a hose from the hydrant.
“It is dangerous because it impedes us from gathering our water supply,” a fire official said.
However, in Studio City, two MTA workers were casually eating lunch at a Subway. Outside, they parked their truck right in front of a fire hydrant for almost half an hour.
Goldstein asked the MTA workers about their truck, but the workers claimed they weren’t there long.
“I just had to use the restroom real quick, man” one worker said.
“No, you were eating inside of Subway,” Goldstein pointed out. “You’ve been in there for 20 minutes at least. We saw you.”
“Sorry,” the worker said, driving off in the truck and leaving his partner to walk away on foot.
A spokesperson for MTA said parking in front of a hydrant violates MTA policy, stating: “All employees are supposed to follow appropriate traffic laws.”
In Van Nuys, CBS2 found two DWP workers eating lunch, sharing something on a cellphone and carrying on a conversation. Outside, their truck was parked in front of a fire hydrant, even though there was an open metered spot just behind the hydrant.
Even parking enforcement didn’t do anything about the vehicle. A hidden camera captured a parking enforcement officer walk right past the DWP truck, still parked in front of the hydrant, and ticket our undercover van for an expired meter.
Goldstein questioned why the DWP truck at the fire hydrant wasn’t ticketed.
“It’s California exempt. I can’t,” the parking-enforcement officer said.
“No, the law says they can’t park at a hydrant,” Goldstein told the officer.
The officer referred Goldstein to the department’s media-relations officer.
As the officer drove away, inside the restaurant, a hidden camera caught the DWP employees get up abruptly, pay their bill and come out around the back side of the restaurant. A worker in a blue shirt walked away, while the driver made his way back to the truck.
“How come you guys parked in front of the hydrant?” Goldstein asked the driver.
“I’m working here; I’ve got a little pressure complaint,” the DWP employee said.
Goldstein revealed that he saw the workers eating lunch while parked at the hydrant, but the driver continued to deny it.
“We have shots of you inside eating lunch,” Goldstein said. “You parked at the hydrant while all the metered spots were open. Isn’t that a danger, parking at a fire hydrant?”
The worker didn’t respond.
A DWP spokesperson said: “If the employees were on a lunch or other break and not on the scene of an incident, parking in front of a fire hydrant would have been against city parking regulations.”
LADOT says they don’t ticket utility trucks parked at hydrants because they assume they’re working at a job site. The city’s municipal code says trucks “in use for construction or repair work” are exempted.
Further, DOT says its not their job to search out whether they’re at lunch or working.
“Do you think they should park there and go to lunch?” Goldstein asked.
“No, I don’t think they should,” Los Angeles City Councilman Tom Labonge said. ” (It’s) very dangerous, very dangerous, (and) it’s wrong. It’s dangerous, and it’s wrong.”