A Proposal to Fix the Los Angeles Fire Department

In an editorial, The Los Angeles Times ponders the future of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Nearly two years ago, the brilliant facade of the Los Angeles Fire Department cracked. Long regarded as one of the nation’s premier firefighting agencies, it was reduced by the recession and budget cuts and left unable to deliver the high standard of service Angelenos expected. Complicating matters, its leadership seemed intent on covering up shortcomings rather than confronting them.

Every month, it seemed, there were new revelations. Department leaders relied on inaccurate data to measure response times and misled city officials on how long it took firefighters to reach victims. The LAFD assigned poorly trained firefighters instead of specialists to analyze complex data from the computerized dispatch system. Response was being hindered by an old system, prone to breakdowns, and dispatchers were forced to go through lengthy protocols before sending a firefighter to a medical emergency. Then there was the budget. The LAFD’s expensive staffing model assigned highly paid, highly skilled firefighters to drive patients to hospitals or answer 911 calls, when other fire departments around the country had long ago put civilians in those jobs.

Now, with an improving economy, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are beginning to rebuild the Fire Department, whose ranks were reduced from 3,500 to 3,234 over the past five years. They’re preparing to hire firefighters for the first time since 2009, and there are plans for modernized deployment and much-needed investments in the 30-year-old dispatch system. Garcetti is also beginning the formal search for the next chief.

Read more of the story here http://lat.ms/1kk4iiu

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