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Bonin Says LAFD Stretched Too Thin: What Do You Think?

The L.A. City Councilman says firefighters are being pushed to the point of "exhaustion." Do you agree? Tell us in the comments.

By City News Service

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said Wednesday the fire department has a "growing problem" of resorting to extending the shifts of firefighters to remedy staffing shortages brought on by a hiring freeze and slow recruitment practices.

"The fire department is shrinking and, to cover gaps, we are forcing firefighters to routinely work consecutive 24-hour overtime shifts to the point of exhaustion," Bonin said. "That is a dangerous and extreme way of addressing inadequate staffing. A realistic, long-term hiring plan is long overdue."

A "recall system" typically reserved for emergencies was used heavily this past summer by the fire department to staff the city's 109 neighborhood fire stations, with personnel just getting off their shifts being asked to stay on longer to make up for staff vacancies, Bonin said.

Firefighter hiring practices have not kept pace with need, and the department is only just starting to staff-up again after a five-year hiring freeze, according to Bonin, who represents Brentwood.

"We are already understaffed in many of our neighborhood fire stations, and the trajectory of a shrinking department is chilling," Bonin said.

The issue is the subject of a motion Bonin introduced today asking for an explanation of how the the department ended up short on staff.

The councilman said he wants to look at potentially expanding recruit training classes from the existing size of 70, scheduling earlier start dates for training and staffing light force companies with probationary firefighters.

The department is expecting to hire 55 of the 70 recruits in June 2014, which is too slow to return firefighter ranks to a sufficient number, he said.

In 2008-09, the fire department had around 3,600 firefighters, and now it has 3,100. Getting back to its previous level would take until April 2018, based on the current rate of hiring, Bonin's motion stated.

The motion drew praise from the firefighter union.

"On behalf of the nearly 3,100 firefighters and paramedics in Los Angeles city, I thank council member Bonin for recognizing that our department has been decimated without hiring a single firefighter during the past five years," UFLAC President Frank Lima said.

Bonin's motion has been assigned to the City Council's Public Safety Committee and the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments. 

Stephen J. Darrow October 17, 2013 at 12:20 AM
I read that 80% of LAFD calls are medical. When an ambulance is dispatched to a call and transports the patient to the hospital; they must remain at the hospital until there released by the hospital. The time they are there is called wall time. If they were to leave before being release it wpuld be grounds for a malpractice suit against the city. If the ambulance is at that hospital for sometimes as much of 4hours of what amounts to dead time light force, which consists of at truck and engine company with maybe 6 men are dispatched to the call along with an ambulance from another station. This is a total waste of time and money. Why can't the FD contract out the transportation part of the call to a private ambulance service. Let their drivers stand around for hours at a time. If the patient needs the service of the Paramedic while on the way to the hospital. He goes in the private ambulance and is picked up by the other Paramedic driving the city's truck. This would save time, money and manpower.
Stephen J. Darrow October 17, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Another cost saving idea for the LAFD. The FD has 42 truck companies. Truck Companies must be dispatched with an Engine Company to a fire because the truck company does not have the capacity to pump water. If the FD would buy what is call a Quint(which has a ladder and also has the capacity to pump water) it would save manpower. Since the Quint is totally self contained unit you would not need the extra engine company and since the Quint is a single unit there is no need for a Tiller Operator(the man that steers the rear of the Truck Company). Three less men to run the Quint. Three men that could be place in other units to serve the public more efficiently. IMHO
jkanraym October 17, 2013 at 01:30 PM
i agree. firefighter are expected to stretch too far. they are impotant to our infrastructure and we would like to bbe able to depend on their time of arrival. LET'S HELP THEM! jackie raymond

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