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,”
“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.