LAFD Response Times: LAFD & Villaraigosa Fight Over Direction Of LAFD

Story comes courtesy of The City Maven.

By Alice M. Walton

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the president of the firefighters union used a morning news conference intended to clarify the Los Angeles Fire Department’s response times to trade barbs over the best way to staff and fund the department.

Problems began last week when the Los Angeles Times reported that inflated response times were given to the Los Angeles City Council last year when members were deciding whether to trim the department’s budget. At the same time, a 90 second network failure on March 7 led to a delayed response to two emergency medical calls.

The president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Pat McOsker, has long been vocal that a new deployment plan, which moved fire engines and ambulances out of some fire stations, would lead to longer response times. At today’s event, he presented reporters with a letter that stated,

the plain fact is that UFLAC has been more diligent and far more honest in this matter than has been the Fire Department’s management or the vast majority of Los Angeles’ elected public representatives.

“I don’t know why anyone would believe, as this point, anything that the fire chief and the mayor have to say about our response times,” McOsker said after the news conference. “Every time they say something it’s different. The only thing that’s consistent about what they say is they always put the best possible spin on it.”

Asked about UFLAC and the letter from McOsker, Villaraigosa did not mince words.

“It’s an outrageous letter. It is a reflection of the lack of leadership in the union, for him to say the kinds of things that he did. He knows it’s not true,” Villaraigosa said. “This is an irresponsible letter and frankly it reflects the lack of leadership.”

During last year’s budget process, city officials were told firefighters and paramedics arrive at the scene of an emergency within five minutes 86 percent of the time. The correct figure was closer to 64 percent, as LAFD statisticians based success on a response of five minutes and 59 seconds, unbeknownst to city leadership.

“All of the information that this department has provided to the public and the city government has been accurate,” said Fire Chief Brian Cummings.

“It’s an expensive standard to hit,” Cummings said of the National Fire Protection Association’s recommendation that firefighters show up to emergencies in less than five minutes at least 90 percent of the time.

Controller Wendy Greuel has been asked to audit the department’s response times. There was no immediate word on how long it will take to complete the review.