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Fire commissioners criticize LAFD's ambulance deal with Dodgers

FiresDodger StadiumLos Angeles Fire Department

A draft contract for the Los Angeles Fire Department to continue providing medical care at Dodger Stadium came under criticism from fire commissioners after department officials disclosed that the arrangement has required shifting on-duty units from other areas and will ask taxpayers to foot part of the bill.

Since spring, the LAFD has stationed three ambulances at Dodgers home games to provide medical care. The department planned to prevent the city from paying the cost by staffing the units with off-duty firefighters who volunteered to be paid overtime by the Dodgers.

However, fire officials said Tuesday they have reassigned on-duty firefighters from other parts of the city for 13 games because of a lack of volunteers. They also reported that the terms of a draft agreement hammered out with the Dodgers would cover only the time firefighters spend at the stadium, leaving the city to pay for moving the units to and from the team’s home in Chavez Ravine.

Several fire commissioners, including board President Genethia Hudley-Hayes, were swift to criticize the draft, suggesting that the board would not approve the deal until the Fire Department strikes more favorable terms.

"As much as we love the Dodgers, it is a commercial venture,” said Commissioner Alan J. Skobin. “If they can spend $20 million for a player, I don't see why we're being nickel-and-dimed."

In the past, the Dodgers contracted with a private ambulance service to work the team’s home games. The City Charter prevents the LAFD from engaging in a “purely commercial” enterprise and profiting from the deal.

The contract’s total cost to the city had not been calculated; but fire officials defended the arrangement, arguing that serving the stadium’s large crowds -- which can swell to greater than 50,000 -- are part of the department’s mission.

They said firefighters have transported 56 baseball fans to hospitals already this season, a task that would have fallen to on-duty LAFD units at nearby stations in past years. [Updated at 6:39 p.m.: Of those, 11 patients were transported by the ambulances stationed at Dodger Stadium, according to Skobin. The rest were transported by units from neighborhood stations, as in years past, he said.]

“There is a minimal cost to the city and sometimes we have had to close an ambulance,” said Fire Chief Brian Cummings. “But the question here is what we're getting for that small cost. Is it worth it to the public safety?”

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