Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Less is more for Fire Department

Gretchen Hoffman

The Glendale Fire Department operates with fewer firefighters than

federal recommendations would have it, but officials say they are

still equipped to deal with any kind of emergency and that the


guidelines are designed to be customized.

Departments across the country look to the nonprofit National Fire

Protection Assn.'s 300 safety codes and standards for guidance.

“They’re national standards, and they’re intended to be adaptable


to each community,” Glendale Assistant Fire Chief Don Biggs said.

“There’s a huge variation between a big city where there’s an engine

on every block, the more moderate city like ourselves and the rural

cities where engines are miles apart.”

Adhering strictly to the regulations doesn’t always make sense,

officials said. At all but one Glendale station, engines are staffed

with four firefighters.

“In high-value districts, such as downtown Glendale, [the


recommendation] can be up to six persons on a truck company,” Biggs

said. “We just don’t have the fire load, and we don’t have the

budget, to justify that.”

As with any business, the budget is the bottom line: Staffing

levels are a balance of the city’s needs and what the city can afford

to pay. The Fire Department makes suggestions to city officials, who

have the final say on the budget, and staffing levels.

“In the fire service we feel very confident that our staffing


levels are completely suited to protecting the city,” City Manager

Jim Starbird said. “Our response time is lower than average. Our

rating in being a class one fire department ... can only be obtained

if you have the very highest of marks.”

At Station 29, 2465 Honolulu Ave., the engine is staffed with

three firefighters, which can be a “handicap” when the station’s

paramedics are on another call, Biggs said. OSHA rules dictate that

four firefighters are needed to enter buildings when no victims are


“It’s not our favorite thing in the world but that station is

supported from three different ways,” Biggs said. “It’s all an

evaluation of the risk.”

Its proximity to stations 24 and 28 and the Los Angeles County

stations in La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge makes getting help

fast and easy.

“We’re doing a very good job on the emergency response front,”

Biggs said.

“We could do a better job administratively and we could have it a

little better manned at Station 29, but it’s a minor issue compared

to our overall capabilities,” he added.

Additional resources would allow the department to beef up its

public education and outreach programs, McFall said.