The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved Ralph Terrazas as the new fire chief Friday, making him the L.A. Fire Department's fifth chief in seven years. He is also the first Latino to lead the department.
The appointment comes at a time when the LAFD is working to revamp its recruitment process. When the fire department hired its first Fire Academy class in five years back in January, critics said the recruits did not reflect the diversity of the city. The Los Angeles Times also found that one-fifth of those hired for the Academy had a relative already working for the LAFD.
Mayor Eric Garcetti ultimately concluded the hiring process was "fatally flawed" and halted additional classes. Hiring restarted last month when about 10,000 people applied to be firefighters. Just 5 percent of those applicants were women. The new chief told the L.A. City Council he wants to bring back a recruitment program that targeted female college athletes.
That program brought "them into our training center and exposed them to the ladders and the hose and the breathing apparatus, and we mentored them in the written exam and oral interview process so eventually they were able to be hired by us," Terrazas said.
The new chief also endorsed programs that expose high school students to the LAFD.
"Together we will transform the department into a metric driven, technologically sophisticated, community focused organization that reflects the communities that we serve," Terrazas said.
Both Garcetti and Terrazas said the fire department would be focused on using data to better track response times and make decisions on deployment.
"We were doing a lot of guessing games. We had a lot of junk data for a long time. Now I think we're on track," Garcetti said.
Asked about privatizing EMS services, Terrazas said he was opposed because of concerns that poorer residents would not be served by those companies.
"They'll want to provide services in the high income areas and neglect the lower income areas because there's no profit incentive," Terrazas said.
The Mayor's Office is currently in negotiations with United Firefighters of Los Angeles. The mayor said it's unlikely firefighters will see any type of raise within the next year.
"I'm not going to talk about negotiations that are ongoing right now, but I don't think any union doesn't ask for raises," Garcetti said.
This story has been updated.