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

Brian Watt/KPCC

Fire Chief Brian Cummings appeared before the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday to explain what the LAFD needs to lower response times and improve service.

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.”


LAFD ambulance riders urged to call IRS after billing breach

lafd ambulance

Photo by KristaLAPrincess via Flickr Creative Commons

The L.A. Times reports that personal information may have been stolen from more than 900 Los Angeles Fire Department ambulance riders last year.

The IRS is investigating whether an employee of the billing company, Advanced Data Processing Inc., accessed Social Security numbers, birth dates and other information from individuals tranported by LAFD ambulances.

Fire department notification letters warn that patient information was used in a scheme to obtain illegal tax refunds, and that potential victims should contact the IRS and determine if bogus returns were filed in their names, reports The Times.

Twenty-six notification letters have gone out so far and more than 900 people may have been victimized in total, said William Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

[...]The city's ambulance billing duties are handled by Advanced Data Processing Inc., which received nearly $6 million from the Fire Department between June 2011 and Oct. 30, according to City Controller Wendy Greuel. 

Federal law protects private medical information, Carter said.


Former LAPD reserve officer appointed to LAFD's Board of Fire Commissioners


Los Angeles Fire Department

A former LAPD reserve officer was appointed to serve on the five-member civilian Board of Fire Commissioners.

A former reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department was one step closer today to securing a position on the Board of Fire Commissioners. 

Steve Fazio was confirmed by the Public Safety Committee. The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to discuss his appointment on Tuesday. He would succeed Jill Furillo. The five-member civilian Board of Fire Commissioners is responsible for providing direction to the Los Angeles Fire Department. 

Fazio was a reserve officer from 1981 to 2011. He is a former president of the Brentwood Area Chamber of Commerce and was part of the effort to create the Westside Council of Chambers of Commerce. 

"I am confident that Steve Fazio will make an excellent addition to the Board of Fire Commissioners," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement announcing the appointment. “His 30 years of service as a reserve police officer demonstrates his commitment to public safety, and his consistent engagement in the local business community has shown that he has the aptitude to advance the goals of the Los Angeles Fire Department.”


Fire Department data to be reviewed by task force


Los Angeles Fire Department

A new task force will use LAFD's data to influence policy decisions.

Following months of questions about dispatch and response times, the Los Angeles Fire Department has established a task force to look at its data input.

The LAFD Task force on Information and Data Analysis includes representatives from RAND Corporation, USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and the Los Angeles Police Department, which is known for its COMPSTAT data system. LAFD Assistant Chief Patrick Butler will head up the task force up. 

“This real time accurate information will enhance the leadership and policy decisions and allow our internal and external stakeholders to see and measure our performance, initiate discussion and dialogue, as well as develop and disseminate best practices throughout the department,” fire Chief Brian Cummings told the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Earlier this year, an initial assessment of LAFD's software systems found two tracking systems were generating different response times based on the same data inputs. At the time, the interim director of Statistical Analysis and Review said he did not have confidence in the department's numbers.


City attorney, fire commissioners clash over LAFD's personnel files



Fire commissioners told the City Attorney's Office today that blocking access to personnel files makes the civilian oversight panel irrelevant.

A fight over who runs the Los Angeles Fire Department and therefore who should have access to records containing confidential employee information erupted today at the Board of Fire Commissioners.

The Fire Commission’s independent assessor is responsible for auditing, assessing and reviewing the LAFD’s handling of complaints against sworn and civilian employees.  Last week, the man tasked with that job, Stephen Miller, told the Los Angeles Times he is being denied access to the records he needs. Miller appealed to the commission, noting that the city charter allows him to have the same access to information as the Board of Commissioners. 

That point set off a discussion on what commissioners are allowed to review. Pete Echeverria with the City Attorney’s Office told commissioners they cannot have unfettered access to personnel records because only the fire chief is responsible for disciplining employees.