Although Firegate just erupted in the public square this week, local firefighters have been watching the downward spiral of their Los Angeles City Fire Department with every whack to its budget.
An anonymous blog called LAFDDeployment.com was created in summer 2011. It encouraged firefighters to...
... "anonymously share your stories on the deployment plan. Let us know impacts on public safety and your safety."
Brian Humphrey in the public-affairs office speculates that the firefighters' union was behind the push for insider confessions, but the anonymous blog moderator denies as much. Further commentary from "BlogAdmin" suggests that the moderator is associated with City Controller candidate Cary Brazeman, who conducted a "citizens audit" on LAFD response times last month, to fruitful effect.
Anyway, no matter who's running the thing, the comments are enlightening (grain of salt for their anonymity, of course).
Activity really picked up at the beginning of February 2012. Below are some of the most alarming anecdotes on the "Share your stories" thread. They're a little jargony, but you get the picture.
"Let me see 80% plus EMS calls and Policy is transport everyone, and we closed transporting resources. Thats why it took me 25 min to get on scene to transport a BLS pt in 24s district the exact same district that closed an 800 I'm sure glad the citizens who pay their property taxes for many years are subsidizing the rest of the city."
"We are traveling farther more frequently. Our engine is a command company and we have responded red lights and siren half way across the city, with two BC's assigned (one with an SA) to an oven fire. This is happening frequently!"
"The command company responses are a perfect example of the chief officers complete dedication to IGM. What once took two members (bc and sa) now takes 6 or 7 (2 bc's, 4 man engine, sometimes sa). We all know good and well that it doesn't take that many people to run 99% of our fires, but they want to be able to show a huge call load increase. They will then attempt to parlay that into getting their SA's or EIT's (which ever title they have this week) back. Never mind the increased work load on already busy engine companies. Never mind the safety issues associated with these long and unnecessary responses. If it gets them their drivers back, it's all good."
"The swap of 4's and 21's has impacted all the companies around that horrible district, the realignment has caused all surrounding districts to be next up at the jails, we are constantly running to the jails for non emergency ALS calls and leaving our districts empty. Our upper brass has given 21's a vacation while every other company pulls its own weight and then some, check every district around 4's since the new deployment plan started, you will find increased call loads and times. Ultimately the citizens are the ones that are left with no ALS resources to help them in their time of need."
"I was apart of this move and have first hand experience with how terrible 4's is. We now run probably double the runs we used to down at 21s while 21s now runs probably 1/3 of what they were running at 4s. The problem is, is they have 4 resources to share the runs of a moderate district and we only have 3 resources to share the runs in a very busy district. Not to mention our 20 ft ext. ladder cannot reach the roof of about 99% of the buildings in 4s district...."
"Example: Everytime LF35/ RA35 and is on an incident and their is another run in their district drawing resources from say 82's or 27's that should be documented somewhere, probably dispatch records from OCD. Is it that hard to figure out? Anywhere there has been a resource closed, the surrounding stations have had to handle the additional workload (equals greater response times)."
"Once again, our ALS rescue goes on a non-emergency BLS response. Two minutes later, LF goes on a critical patient and had to wait 21 minutes for a rescue. ten minutes after that call, same scenario. Only this time, we waited for 32 minutes for an ALS rescue. Yes, we did get on the radio and ask for closer rescue of any type. The members onscene have to bear the responsibility of keeping the family members calm due to this plan. A computer came up with this plan, and we, the field members have to suffer."
"A major emergency structure fire in 39s district inc #926. many surrounding districts were left uncovered for more than an hour."
Other interesting speculations on the distribution of the money that LAFD does have:
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The department is too top-heavy, focusing on the preservation of top brass instead of the work force; firefighters are wasting their time on ruptured DWP pipes/hydrants, snake calls, prison shenanigans and other calls that might be handled by less strained departments; and resources are being unfairly/unsafely distributed merely to make the stats look good.
Which they, uh, don't anyway.
See also: "LAFD Starts Media Blackout on Fires, Rescues After Bad Press on Response Times" and "L.A. Fire Department's Public-Information Blackout: Is Withholding Response Times, Addresses Even Legal?"