The Los Angeles City Fire Department began reassigning firefighters to ambulance duty on Sunday, a move that Chief Brian Cummings says is necessary amid million-dollar budget cuts but that is causing concern among city leaders that the department will not be well enough equipped to protect the public.
The plan’s implementation comes days after several wild- and brushfires scorched tens of thousands of acres in Southern California. Burning amid near triple-digit temperatures and low humidity, the blazes drew agencies from throughout the region to aid in the fire fight.
“We know this last week we had a lot of fires and that concerns me, as well as my colleagues, that we have adequate staff to fire equipment,” City Councilman Dennis Zine said. “We simply ask, hold off on this implementation until the entire council can have this interview.”
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Dozens of the department’s 3,000 firefighters have been redeployed from light trucks to staff ambulances.
The union representing LA city firefighters said that puts the firefighters and the public at higher risk should a fire break out.
The shift makes it possible for 11 more ambulances to operate. And because 85 percent of the emergency calls taken by LAFD are medical calls, Cummings said the change is a better use of resources.
He added that the shift was necessary because of budget cuts, and could have been avoided if the department was given $1.3 million in additional funding. Opponents of the plan will raise that issue and try to get that extra money at Tuesday’s LA City Council meeting.
But not all city leaders think the council should interfere in Cummings’ plan.
“I just think it's kind of hypocritical that we’d be, basically, stopping the fire chief from doing his job,” Councilman Bernard Parks said. “No one on the council has been a firefighter. They’ve never been a manager in the fire department. They've never deployed a firefighter.”