Valley hazmat team falls prey to budget cuts

LOS ANGELES The Station 87 hazmat team in Granada Hills, one of only three in the Los Angeles area, will be taken out of full-time commission due to budget cuts. Officials said it will still be available in case of an emergency.

This is just the latest in a series of cutbacks that have resulted in fire and ambulance crews being reduced all over the city on a rotating basis.

Pat McOsker, the head of the firefighters union in Los Angeles County, has expressed concern that it could leave the area vulnerable.

"I think it would be a disaster," he said. The other two full-time hazmat teams are in downtown Los Angeles and the Harbor area. He worries covering those distances in an emergency could mean a longer response time.

"To not have that properly staffed, to hope that when that call comes in that we can scrape together some people and get them on the rig and then have inadequate support crews for them - I think it would be a big mistake."

But City Councilman Greig Smith disagreed with that assessment. "They're giving the illusion to people that they're in danger. They're not in danger."

He said the hazmat team generally goes out on calls only a few times a month. The only change now is that they will be required to perform regular firefighter duties the rest of the time.

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