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Fires

L.A. Fire Department's Emergency Response Times Increased After Budget Cuts: Audit

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Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 4:35 PM

click to enlarge Unrelated conspiracy theory: The sinkholes strike back. - LA DAILY NEWS
  • LA Daily News
  • Unrelated conspiracy theory: The sinkholes strike back.
L.A. City Controller candidate Cary Brazeman, ladies and gentlemen -- kickin' off the campaign season with a bang!

While current City Controller Wendy Greuel plays catchup with KCET and irons her zillion bad suits, a fresh-faced citywatcher who hopes to move into her office come 2013 hasn't wasted any time in pumping out his first audit.

He calls it a "citizens audit"...

... and it's as fine as any PDF we've ever seen emerge from Greuel's lair.

It shows that between 2008 and 2011, during which time the L.A. City Fire Department was shaved of about 200 firefighters and one-fourth its red fleet, emergency-response times rose as much as 10 percent.

This, despite repeated promises from city leaders that they were merely shuffling around department resources around to achieve maximum efficiency, not endangering the public.

"I applaud [Chief Millage Peaks'] leadership and vision in the development of a Plan that will save the City more than $50 million a year while enhancing public safety for all of Los Angeles," said Councilmember Tony Cárdenas last summer, during the most recent round of cuts.

Brazeman's chart shows differently.

click to enlarge CARYBRAZEMAN.COM
  • carybrazeman.com
"We had a feeling that the change was sharper than we were led to believe it would be," Brazeman tells the Weekly of his inspiration for the audit.

Six seconds might not seem like much, but -- as Brazeman notes in his release -- "in emergency response situations, seconds matter."

In case you're interested in the nitty-gritty of these numbers (yay, paperwork!), we will say that Brazeman's data is a little more complicated than meets the eye.

That's because for the first half of 2011, the LAFD was using a "modified coverage plan." And in the middle of 2011, they switched to Chief Peaks' widely applauded efficiency plan. However, the chart above only shows the difference between 2008 -- when everything was just peachy -- and the second half of 2011. Therefore, the change in response times due to the city's most recent budget decision, circa mid-2011, isn't covered.

Brazeman does tell us over the phone, though, that response times for the first half of 2011 likewise came out quicker than for the second half. So, point still proven. (We'll update with those specifics once he compiles them.)

Granted, L.A. City Hall has had to make some tough financial choices during these trying times. But they're trying times that still allow the mayor's office more public-relations and social-media staffers than we can count on two hands, and still allow the Port of Los Angeles to keep their million-dollar city yacht in ship shape. Priorities can always be shifted, no matter the deficit.

Update: NBC LA also ran a story this afternoon on the downward spiral of the LAFD. And for the story's protagonist, 53-year-old burn victim Jack Mocaer, City Hall's budget cuts have had life-threatening effects.

The closest fire station, 105, is barely two miles from the Mocaer's home. But that morning, the station was empty -- one of its two companies eliminated by budget cuts. The one remaining was already out on another emergency call.

"The company that should have been in that district would have gotten there in four minutes," said LAFD Captain John Rojas.

But the incident report showed Captain Rojas and the team from Station 106 arrived on scene in nine minutes.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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