Defending his department over criticism on how long it takes to get to incidents, Fire Chief Brian Cummings said Thursday that changes were coming -- with increased staffing and new computer programs that would help the department to better explain its response times.
Cummings, in a meeting with Los Angeles Daily News editors and reporters, also said the proposed deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to have three ambulances at games will help improve response times.
"Right now, we respond to 68 incidents a year (at Dodger Stadium) that the private contractor is not able to handle," Cummings said.
The City Attorney's Office is reviewing the proposal, in which the Dodgers would pay all costs for the paramedics, for any liability issues. Once that is resolved, Cummings said he expects quick approval from the Fire Commission and City Council, allowing the program to start on opening day.
By providing staff for the Dodgers, made up of personnel who are off duty, Cummings said the outcome would result in a reduced response time for other stations in area.
"We will no longer need to send people from stations to Dodgers Stadium," Cummings said. "We will be able to handle other calls much quicker in the area around the stadium."
As far as response time, Cummings said they are about to unveil a new page on its website that shows the response time at a station over the past seven days,
calls that were made and where as well as the amount of equipment available in the area.
Cummings said most of the calls to the agency are for medical care and he defended the policy of sending fire trucks out with the paramedics and ambulance.
"We need up to eight people at an incident," Cummings said. "We have people providing care and then others who bring in equipment, deal with the hospital and all the other things we do."
Cummings said they have studied contracting out some of the ambulance service, but noted it brings in $72 million a year to the city.
"Even if I brought in a private ambulance company, I would still need the people I have," Cummings said.
The fire chief also said he has delayed plans to hire more firefighters until he learns what the City Council approves during its budget hearings in late April and early May.
Cummings, who has been chief for two years, said he hopes to be able to stay on the job five more years.
"These are exciting times and I want to be around to see the changes," Cummings said.
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