Los Angeles Fire Department hiring practice, response times criticized


A new L.A. Fire Commission report is critical of the way the fire department does business. The mayor and the fire commission have launched an investigation into the way new recruits are hired. They also are looking at the department's response times.

The numbers show about 20 percent of the recruits in a new firefighter class are related to existing employees, and the department reportedly turned away thousands of other qualified applicants.

The chief says he found nothing wrong.

"There may have been the appearance -- repeat, the appearance -- of a potential, and I actually transferred or reassigned chief officers who had some relatives in the process," said Los Angeles Fire Department Interim Chief James Featherstone.

In addition personnel managers accepted only applications submitted during a one-minute period. Anyone after that did not qualify. The chief says that was a wrong decision.

"If it were up to me we would not have had the 60-second window," said Featherstone. "I think that it's arbitrary."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday asked for an investigation. "This problem may have been caused before I took office but as mayor I'm going to fix it," he said.

Another issue is response times. A new report recommends a big overhaul, including merging its 9-1-1 system with the LAPD and filling about 200 firefighter jobs with civilians.

The firefighter union says it was never invited to participate in the report.

"Simply put, the concerns of the rank and file firefighter were maliciously omitted," said President Frank Lima, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

The department is looking to change the program it uses to assess 911 calls. It's been in place for more 25 years.

"We're looking for another option, and I'm very optimistic that we'll have a better system hopefully by early next year at the latest to provide the best service that we can to the city of Los Angeles," said LAFD Medical Director Dr. Marc Eckstein.

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