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Budget cuts cause L.A. Fire closures

July 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The city of Los Angeles is facing a tough deadline. Unless the city comes up with the money it needs, in about a week, the L.A. Fire Department will enact rotating closures of fire stations and pull several ambulances out of rotation.One week from Thursday, the Los Angeles Fire Department will pull 15 fire companies and nine ambulances out of stations every day. The fire chief has determined that rotating closures is the only way to save $39 million to meet the budget deficit.

Fire officials say it could mean life-threatening delays in response times.

"It could affect response times as much as an additional two to five minutes, on top of what would be the normal response time," said Deputy Chief Emile Mack, Los Angeles Fire Operations.

That could mean the difference between survival and brain death in a cardiac arrest, or a fully involved home in a fire.

The Los Angeles City Council can't find the money in a city budget that's out of balance by at least $200 million as a result of the new state budget. The city council deferred cutting the fire department deficit from $52 million to $39 million Wednesday by transferring money from the reserve.

City Councilwoman Janice Hahn sent the fire department budget deficit to committee in an attempt to learn more about the impacts of the cuts.

"I just wanted it to go to committee so we could begin delving a little bit deeper into the impacts," said Hahn.

The rotating reductions will happen unless the city can come up with the money.

"The only way we could find this money is potentially with shared sacrifice. People could forestall bonuses, they could take a little bit less, or we could also make the fire department smaller," said Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President.

Beginning next week, there will be 87 fewer firefighters to respond to emergencies in Los Angeles, which may have some worried as brush fire season closes in.

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