LA firefighters protest budget cuts at City Hall

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Off-duty Los Angeles firefighters protest budget cuts outside City Hall

The Los Angeles City Fire Department’s plan to limit the use of some fire trucks and ambulances goes into full effect on Thursday. The plan’s designed to shave tens of millions of dollars from the department’s budget. KPCC’s Brian Watt says dozens of off-duty firefighters showed up at City Hall Wednesday to protest the plan – and to warn people about its consequences.

Brian Watt: To demonstrate how tight the city’s emergency resources are, the president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Pat McOsker explained how his department responded to a fire in the Eagle Rock area just hours before the protest.

Pat McOsker: We had a brush fire, and at the same time what people probably don’t know is we had two structure fires going on in Los Angeles, and we were absolutely stretched to the limit. They pulled companies out of mandatory training and moved them into fires. We had nobody left, and that was fully staffed.

Watt: The fire department plans not to staff 15 fire trucks and 9 ambulances every day for the next fiscal year. McOsker says that means the remaining firefighters and paramedics won’t make it to emergencies as quickly as they do now.

McOsker: People are gonna get killed if this plan goes into effect, and it’s not gonna be on our heads.

Watt: At the L.A. City Council meeting, the firefighters reiterated their recent offer to defer some sick pay and uniform allowances for the month of August. They say that will save $4 million, and will allow their union to negotiate further with the city. Councilwoman Janice Hahn urged the city to consider the offer. he said August is a tough month in which to lose any emergency personnel.

Janice Hahn: Tourism. I mean, we have people coming to Los Angeles. Different kinds of accidents happen in the summer. I was just worried that we would see some tragedies connected to this.

Watt: The firefighters maintain they’re ready to sacrifice so the city can trim its budget. But they say the city has asked for greater sacrifices from firefighters than from civilian employees.

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