Politics

LA firefighters' union president says cutbacks costing lives

A firefighter recruit practices during training by the Los Angeles Fire Department at the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center Los Angeles, California. File photo.
A firefighter recruit practices during training by the Los Angeles Fire Department at the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center Los Angeles, California. File photo.
David McNew/Getty Images

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The leader of the union that represents Los Angeles city firefighters blames budget cuts for two recent deaths. The charge arises as the union negotiates a new contract with the city.

Firefighters’ union president Pat McOsker said a 71-year-old Lincoln Heights man died of burns because one of two fire engines at the nearest station was out of commission.

He said a 64-year-old Van Nuys woman died of smoke inhalation because a fire engine was unable to deploy from a station just 300 feet away.

In August, the mayor backed a plan to address a record budget deficit by pulling 15 fire trucks and nine ambulances out of service.

The plan keeps all city fire stations open with at least one truck or ambulance, but it can slow response times.

City Council President Eric Garcetti said he shared the concerns of the firefighters' union, but he disputed its account of the Van Nuys incident.

“In talking to the fire chief about one that happened a month ago or so, he said the response time was actually under what the average is," said Garcetti.

Garcetti said he hopes a new labor contract with the firefighters union will produce enough savings to put some of those trucks back on the streets.

“We’re working very hard with our firefighter union behind the scenes to close a contract," he said. "And I think as a part of that, we should work as hard as we can to end any modified staffing deployment.”

Right now, negotiations are at an impasse.

KPCC wire services contributed to this story