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Fire chief appears at City Hall to respond to criticism of LAFD (video)

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Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings appeared before the L.A. City Council Tuesday to face criticism that the department has done little to improve response times and manage its budget. 

Cummings' two-hour appearance ended with council members giving him 60 days to report on how the LAFD expects to restore service over the next five years.

The fire department has faced months of criticism after it was revealed that their response times were calculated incorrectly. The fire chief blamed part of LAFD’s problems on money. The L.A. City Council cut the department’s budget by $89 million from 2008 to 2011. But, this year, the LAFD’s budget was back to $513 million.

“The simple answer is money," Cummings said. "If you give us money, we’ll have more technology, we’ll have more civilian support staff, we’ll have more resources in the field. You gave us a budget. We’re giving you the most effective fire department we can within that budget.”

That sentiment was backed by Councilman Richard Alarcon, who chastised his colleagues for acting surprised that taking away resources could increase response times. 

“Even Barry Bonds can’t hit home runs with a plastic bat,” he said.

Representatives with the fire department will return in two months to the Budget and Finance and Public Safety committees with a report on what resources they need to operate more effectively. In the meantime, the chief pointed to a report that identifies LAFD’s problems and makes recommendations for the future. Those recommendations include better training for LAFD staff that work with data, a public database of real time responses, and an ongoing relationship with the RAND Corporation.

“They came up with an action plan to realize firefighters are fantastic …(but) the issue is those same men and women in the fire department are not necessarily data analytical specialists,” said Councilman Mitch Englander, who along with Councilman Eric Garcetti asked the chief to appear before the city council.

Response times are just one of the department's problems. Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that a billing company stole personal information from patients transported in LAFD ambulances, and Tuesday morning a YouTube video surfaced that shows a young woman in tight shorts and high-heels hula-hooping  at a Venice fire station. That case was referred to the Professional Standards Division.   

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