LA Fire Dept. Fudges Response Time Stats

Former department statistician inflates numbers so it shows firefighters getting to emergencies quicker

LA fire department officials admitted that for years the agency has used data that made it appear that firefighters were arriving at the scene of emergencies faster than they actually were, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Federal guidelines call for first responders to arrive in less than five minutes 90 percent of the time.

But The Times reported a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, and that inflated the percentage of firefighters arriving within five minutes of a dispatch.

Retired Capt. Billy Wells said he followed the department's tradition of using a six-minute response standard, and his successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he continued using the for a while, because he didn't want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance.

“I didn't want to touch that (extra) minute because I knew the data would take a dump,” Woolf told The Times.

Corrected data shows that in 2008, the department actually hit the five- minute goal 64 percent of the time, officials said.

By last year, that number had fallen to about 60 percent.


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Fire Department spending has been reduced more than 15 percent in recent years, and about a quarter of the city's 106 fire stations have eliminated staffing for fire trucks or ambulances, according to The Times.

The issue came about recently because Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner blamed slower response times on staffing cuts due to city budget woes.

Beutner was first deputy mayor under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prior to the fire department staffing plan being put into effect, according to a Beutner staff member.

NBC4's Robert Kovacik recently talked to Fire Chief Brian Cummings about response times.

The news also comes as NBC4 reports that firefighters are not getting all of the emergency notifications meant for them.

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