California Professional Firefighters

Budget Cuts Sacrifice Firefighter and Public Safety

At a time of increased fire danger and already depleted fire services, budget cuts are causing longer response times and putting both citizen and firefighter lives in danger.

In Los Angeles, examples abound of lives and property lost due to insufficient staffing. Last July, the LAFD permanently lost four ambulances, nine paramedic units and eighteen fire companies. But rather than addressing unsafe staffing levels, LAFD Chief Brian Cummings is unilaterally imposing a dangerous plan to remove firefighters from twenty-two truck companies. His plan is vehemently opposed by the United Firefighters of Los Angeles County (UFLAC) and the Chief Officers Association (COA) because of the increased risk to firefighters and to public safety.

Yesterday UFLAC and COA held a joint press conference to address the proposed staffing cuts at the scene of a fire in North Hollywood that resulted in one fatality and three injuries. Task Force 60 was first on the scene, and happens to be one of those slated to lose a firefighter in Cummings’ plan. Seconds mattered in this fire and having a fully staffed truck certainly saved lives. According to Frank Lima, UFLAC President, with Cummings’ plan in effect, “there would have been more fatalities at this fire.”

Another resident remembers almost losing her father when her San Fernando Valley home caught fire. The nearest fire station is not even two miles from her home, but the station was empty because one of its two engine companies was already cut and the other was on another emergency call. 53-year-old Jack Mocaer had 63% of his body burned while waiting for help to arrive.

This issue is not exclusive to Los Angeles, as unsafe cuts to fire services are happening throughout California. Last year, Contra Costa County closed four stations and is now planning to close two more. Vince Wells, president of the United Professional Firefighters explains that staffing has gone from 91 firefighters to 72 and that the proposed cuts would bring it down to only 66, providing another pertinent example of how local politics and budget cuts are putting firefighters and communities at risk.