Los Angeles City Fire Department firefighters who commute thousands of miles to work each month could be forced to relocate to Southern California if a residency requirement is imposed in order to keep emergency personnel closer to the city in the event of a major disaster.
A report prepared for the Board of Fire Commissioners showed 115 firefighters currently live out of state, including 36 about 1200 miles away in Idaho, 10 about 2000 miles away in Tennessee, 11 about 1300 miles away in Texas, and 15 more than 600 miles away in Utah.
One firefighter commutes from Alaska ZIP code 99603, 3,617 miles away, or an estimated four-day drive in the event of a major emergency. Another lives in Florida ZIP code 33914, or 2,645 miles away.
Only 499, or about 15-percent of the workforce, lives within city limits, according to the analysis.
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“My number one concern is that unexpected, catastrophic event that we have to recall people,” Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas told the Fire Commissioners Tuesday.
“This report shows us that we have 115 people that live out of state,” he said. “I’ve thought about in my career, how many times have we had catastrophic events,” and listed a handful.
Terrazas said he hoped the information would lead to discussions with the City Council, the mayor’s office, and the firefighters union to address whether there should be a rule about where firefighters should live.
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City firefighters are able to maintain their work schedules by trading duty days with colleagues, so they can ‘stack’ their work days consecutively and only travel to and from Los Angeles once a month, according to another fire department official.
Firefighters typically work 24-hour shifts 10 or 11 days each month.
The department said the residence analysis was prepared in response to a 2020 internal discussion about the feasibility of requiring firefighters to live within a certain distance of their duty stations.
The analysis said firefighters who commute from long distances strain the department by requiring an increased number of shift trades, diminishes their availability for large scale emergencies or catastrophic events, creates a lack of “ownership” by station leadership due to members not working their assigned shifts, and creates strain on the firefighters and their families.
The report said the City Attorney’s office advised the fire department had the authority to impose a residency rule, but a fire department official said the change would likely require an amendment to the City Charter that would affect other city workers.