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City firefighters ambulance plan scrapped after 2 days, budget allotment

May 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
L.A.'s fire chief dropped a controversial cost-cutting plan to reassign firefighters from fire trucks to ambulances.

After being praised for the heroic work his firefighters did on a recent apartment complex fire, L.A. City Fire Chief Brian Cummings took a lot of heat for his realignment plan to remove one firefighter from a six-person truck and put them in an ambulance. That plan went into effect on Sunday.

After just two days it's been scrapped, at least for now. The L.A. City Council agreed to give the fire department $1.5 million to fully staff the trucks and to put an extra 11 ambulances into service through the end of June.

According to the L.A. City Fire Dept., 85 percent of their daily calls are for emergency medical services. Chief Cummings reminded the city council that he had asked for funding to cover the costs of fully manning engines and adding ambulances in his most recent budget.

"When that money wasn't forthcoming, I looked at the need for the communities that we serve, that 85 percent emergency medical service call, and within my budget I deployed the resources necessary in order to handle the public safety concerns, in order to save lives," said Cummings.

The chief's rank and file did not like the plan and they were very vocal about it.

"It's very frustrating that we're even talking about this safety issue," said Captain Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City. "We support ambulances but not at the expense at taking an inside firefighter off of our truck companies."

Cummings said the $1.5 million will pay for the voluntary overtime to keep the engines and ambulances fully staffed. Cummings said he'd need $13 million in the next budget to maintain that staffing.

The city council vote was unanimous to fund the overtime for the next two months.

On the days when he can't fill the ambulances with voluntary overtime, Cummings says he will go back to pulling a firefighter from a six-man truck and putting them in an ambulance.


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