Fire Agencies Will Share Resources : Brownouts: Agreement will help the Los Angeles Fire Department maintain services despite budget cuts. Pacts with more cities are being negotiated.
In an effort to save money and improve services, the Los Angeles Fire Department will soon share forces with at least one Westside municipality and is considering doing the same with others.
By a 12-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council has approved an agreement for the department to share some essential fire and emergency medical services with the Culver City Fire Department. The council also asked city fire officials to consider seeking similar agreements with other, unspecified cities.
Although the Culver City agreement has been more than a year in the making, Los Angeles fire officials said it has become particularly important now that budget cuts have forced a “rolling brownout.”
In such a brownout, city fire stations take turns closing down for nine days at a time, and rely on coverage from nearby fire stations in an emergency.
The Los Angeles brownouts began July 8 in response to across-the-board city cutbacks that reduced the Fire Department budget by about $23 million. The brownouts, which eliminate 13 fire companies and six ambulances from service on a rotating basis, were proposed by Fire Chief Donald Manning as the best way to cut costs without closing stations.
The motion to cooperate with Culver City was brought before the City Council by the Fire Department.
“The whole idea is to constantly look for places where we can provide the best services for citizens, regardless of the city boundaries,” said Los Angeles Assistant Fire Chief Ed Allen. “Then we negotiate trade-offs.”
Allen said Culver City fire officials are ill-equipped to handle fires that could break out in a sewer tunnel being dug under their city as a link in the North Outfall sewer system in West Los Angeles. Los Angeles firefighters will respond to any problems in the sewer link in Culver City, sending as many as five fire companies, two trucks and a battalion chief, Allen said.
Culver City Fire Chief Michael Olson said his city also expects Los Angeles to contribute helicopter reconnaissance and hazardous materials teams and to provide back-up in the case of a high-rise fire.
In return, Culver City officials have pledged to respond to fires in a small section of the Del Rey area of Los Angeles that is closer to two Culver City fire stations than to any Los Angeles stations.
The affected area is east of the San Diego Freeway and north of Ballona Creek. It includes short stretches of Sepulveda and Sawtelle boulevards and several residential blocks. Culver City also will provide Los Angeles with some emergency medical assistance.
Olson said he and Los Angeles Fire Chief Manning have been working out the details of the agreement for at least a year and a half. He said his primary concern is improving safety, not saving money. Culver City is not affected by rolling brownouts.
“It’s a mutual benefit for both of us,” Olson said. “It has nothing to do with budget cuts. It’s just good money-wise.”
Fire officials from both cities said they hope to work out the details and implement the cooperative system in the next few months.
Los Angeles fire officials have been entering into such agreements since 1980, when they began sharing resources with Beverly Hills, Allen said.
Under that agreement, Beverly Hills will dispatch an engine company to parts of lower Franklin Canyon that are in Los Angeles but are closer to Beverly Hills fire stations, Allen said.
An agreement reached with Santa Monica, also in 1980, calls for Los Angeles to dispatch fire companies and two engines to large fires. In return, Santa Monica will dispatch a paramedic engine company to Santa Monica Canyon, Venice and Brentwood--areas that Los Angeles fire stations cannot respond to as quickly, Allen said.
Other cooperative agreements were reached with Burbank in 1984, El Segundo in 1985 and Los Angeles County firefighters in 1988, Allen said. He said Los Angeles is negotiating such agreements now with Glendale and the Ventura County Fire Department.
In a “rolling brownout,” city fire stations take turns closing down for nine days at a time, and rely on coverage from nearby fire stations in an emergency. The Los Angeles brownouts began July 8 in response to across-the-board city cutbacks that reduced the Fire Department budget by about $23 million. The brownouts, which eliminate 13 fire companies and six ambulances from service on a rotating basis, were proposed by Fire Chief Donald Manning as the best way to cut costs without closing stations.