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LAFD Chief: Money will improve response times

December 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings is under fire for inaccurate department response times. And he's dealing with a questionable video filmed at a Venice fire station.

Cummings was grilled by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday about how quickly his department responds to emergencies. But he also had to answer questions about a video apparently taped at a fire station.

When you dial 911, what is the response time for L.A. city firefighters to respond? That's what the department has been trying to figure out.

Fire Chief Cummings was on the hot seat at Tuesday's city council meeting. In March the department admitted some of the data made it appear that crews responded to medical emergencies faster than they actually did.

"Unfortunately in doing its response-time analysis the department used junk data that had never been cleaned up, which the department has been formally aware of since 2002," said L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander.

A new task force study found that about a third of the time, emergency crews get to a location later than the recommended standard.

Critics say part of the reason is budget cuts that eliminated about 18 fire companies.

"The simple answer is money," said Cummings. "If you give us money, we'll have more technology, we'll have more civilian support staff, we'll have more resources in the field."

"I did not hear a plan today," said L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti says the fire department Tuesday provided an analysis of the problem but still no way to solve it.

"There was some good analysis. I want to praise the department for what I saw that was good," said Garcetti. "That didn't exist. We can't make a plan without good data. That said, we can't wait for perfect data in order to get people's lives saved and our response times down."

Tuesday's hearing also addressed a video on YouTube called "Firehouse Burlesque Hula Hooping," which was shot at Fire Station 63, the same station where a fire engine was used in a porn film in 2008. The chief says there is an investigation.

"I shouldn't comment on an ongoing investigation," said Cummings. "Let's make sure we're going to have a thorough investigation. We'll get all the facts out. And then once we get that, we'll adjudicate it accordingly."

"If it in fact took place on city property, if there were any firefighters involved, they need to be held responsible to the highest degree," said Englander.

The chief is expected to return to the city council in 60 days for an update on response times.


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