Mayorn Uses First Interstate in Bid for Fire-Radio Gear

Times Staff Writer

The Fire Department's communication system is old, overburdened and a nightmare to maintain, Fire Chief Donald O. Manning said Monday in calling for support of a multimillion-dollar Los Angeles ballot measure to finance a replacement.

Manning was joined by Mayor Tom Bradley in a demonstration of state-of-the-art radio equipment at the fire-damaged First Interstate Bank building downtown, where radio problems hampered firefighters during the disastrous May 4-5 high-rise blaze.

Speaking into a hand-held radio from street level, Manning told the mayor, stationed on the 60th floor, that during the fire at First Interstate commanders sometimes were forced to rely on foot messengers when radio signals failed to reach some areas of the 62-story structure.

"That 's like operating in the horse and buggy days," Bradley said.

The current radio system, purchased in the 1950s and up-dated in 1960s, was designed to handle about 30,000 calls a year, but Manning said it is now forced to accommodate more than 260,000 calls yearly.

And it is difficult to get parts for the system, he said.

Monday's demonstration was staged to call attention to Proposition N--the Fire Safety and Paramedics Bond Ordinance--which provides for an assessment levied against all property in the city to pay for up to $67 million in bonds. It needs a two-thirds vote to pass.

The money would finance a new fire control command system, including $27 million for a radio system, about $22.5 million for a dispatch system and $2.5 million to remodel the dispatch center. Most of the rest of the money would be held in reserve.

Joseph Pinola, chief executive officer of First Interstate Bancorp, is chairman of the citizens committee supporting the measure. He told reporters that the new system would allow a quicker response to critical incidents.

"It's not a lot of money, only about 2 cents a day for the average homeowner, but Proposition N will do a lot of good," Pinola said.

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