Hoping to tap volunteer muscle, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick has proposed a volunteer reservist corps for the Fire Department that would be modeled after the Police Department's reservist program.
Chick's proposal Friday calls on the Fire Department to report on the feasibility of a reserve corps to assist paramedics and provide extra medical staffing during special events, such as the Los Angeles Marathon, and major disasters like the Northridge earthquake.
"The merit clearly exists for an LAFD reserve program that is patterned after the LAPD's reserve program," she said. The police, she noted, use more than 900 volunteers, saving the city about $16 million annually.
Chick's proposal initially calls for a pilot program to test the feasibility of such a volunteer corps. But it is not a novel idea and lacks widespread support.
Former councilman Ernani Bernardi made a similar proposal 1991, but the idea died when the department determined that the liability and other costs to the city would be too high. The Fire Department's union also opposed it, fearing that it would replace career firefighters with unpaid volunteers.
Eric Rose, Chick's field deputy, said the new proposal does not call for replacing firefighters with reservists but simply using the volunteers to augment the force.
Still, Mike McOsker, vice president of the United Firefighters Union of Los Angeles, said his organization would oppose any reservist program because the use of volunteers would tend to diminish the role of full-time firefighters.
"We view what we do as being a career," he said. "This would reduce our jobs to a hobby."