LAFD Chief Presses Forward with EMS Plan

Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Cummings vowed to press ahead with a controversial plan to reassign dozens of city firefighters from fire engines to ambulance duty, despite an outcry from groups representing city firefighters and the department’s top commanders, reports The Los Angeles Times.

The plan would add 11 new ambulances to the LAFD’s fleet by removing one member per shift from 22 firetrucks across the city. The chief said the change is necessary to reshape the department to fulfill its primary task: providing emergency medical care.

Medical calls account for more than 80% of 911 responses, according to department officials and an independent data analysis by The Times. And the chief says that lopsided figure is growing rapidly. In the first two months of this year, medical calls increased 6.2%, compared with the same period last year, Cummings said in a written report.

Cummings’ plan drew intense criticism from the firefighters’ union and the association of chief officers at a special Fire Commission meeting Thursday on the redeployment. Labor leaders said the chief had failed to convince his rank-and-file force that his plan will work and not compromise the safety of firefighters battling fires.

“If you remove one firefighter, it’s like asking the Dodgers to play without a center fielder,” said Andy Fox, president the LAFD Chief Officers Assn. “Yes, they can play the game. Over time, it would prove to be a very bad idea.”

The plan would affect about 60 firefighters assigned to so-called light forces, the combination of a ladder truck and fire engine that jointly responds to emergency incidents. Each light force is currently staffed by six firefighters who perform specialized roles during structure fires and complex rescues, such as removing victims trapped in car wreckage.

The chief’s redeployment would leave many of the city’s light forces with five firefighters, but allow the addition of 11 ambulances, LAFD officials said.

The ambulances would mainly respond to less serious emergencies that do not require a firetruck or more highly trained paramedic. Every LAFD firefighter is an emergency medical technician with some lifesaving skills.

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