6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
HvlSxHY-show-poster2x3-4ik43uV.png

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Bringing the Budget Crisis Home: Will Fire Safety Go Up in Flames?

Support Provided By
LAFD Photo by Harry Garvin
LAFD Photo by Harry Garvin

I have written and spoken about the budget crisis in California and Los Angeles a good deal, but I must now admit, it has always been from a perspective of some distance. My observations have frankly been as one who has thus far been relatively indirectly affected by government cuts. I'm neither proud nor embarrassed of this, it is just the reality of my current situation, which I'm well-aware is not static.

When, frequenting one of my favorite neighborhood haunts I became enraged when the owner showed me a flyer aimed at saving our local fire station. "How could this happen?" I internally screamed. If there is a fire, I'd like to think that there is a truck that can well, you know, actually come and put the fire out.

Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Fire Chief Millage Peaks and his team have used computer modeling software to analyze three years of 911 calls. They found that eighty percent of 911 calls to the LAFD are actually for medical assistance. The problem is the LAFD's staffing model is based on an older reality, where more calls concerned fires.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has recommended a plan which he suggests better reflects the new reality, with more resources spent on medical response, and fewer on fire trucks and fire fighters. The plan would save an estimated $54 million next fiscal year and $197 million over three years.

The new plan would put an end to the current rotating system, in which 22 fire companies are closed on a rotating basis and fire fighters are moved from station to station, working with people they have never met. Instead, some fire companies will be permanently closed--like the one in my area--and more resources will (hopefully) be put into medical response. To put this in perspective, the plan calls for the closing of 18 fire companies. There are 106 fire stations total in the city, some which house more than one company.

It is an imperfect plan reflecting a painful truth. We have less money, but no less need for resources. The LAFD budget has decreased by $100 million in the last three years. Over that period of time, the department has not hired one firefighter, and it seems highly unlikely to do so in the coming years.

So where does this leave me, and us? There are of course two harsh realities weighing in favor of the proposal. First, the city has to cut spending somewhere. Second, if a system is based on an old set of circumstances, then it should be updated.

But the idea of no longer having a fire company by my abode is hardly thrilling. As I type I'm mentally thinking about where we keep our fire extinguishers. In addition, past experience, while a useful guide, cannot ever fully accurately predict what we will need for the future, particularly given that questions surrounding natural disasters should often begin, "when," and not "if." While I know we must cut some spending, before passing this plan, I would urge the members of the City Council to be satisfied that this is truly the best place to cut.

On Tuesday May 17th, the Los Angeles City Council will vote on the plan.

Support Provided By
Read More
A group of mules lined up and reined together gallop down a commercial street. Spectators watch on the sides of the road and a mountain landscape fills the background.

And Then There Were Two: Inyo and Merced Stuck in Strictest Tier

Unable to meet state COVID-19 infection criteria, Merced and Inyo counties still can’t reopen most businesses. The status threatens a big Memorial Day event in Bishop, so the town has asked the state to reconsider its rural county requirements.
Maria Gutierrez teaching LAUSD preschoolers from the virtual classroom she's created in her home.

Preparing to Go Back to Preschool in A Pandemic: 'Fun, but in A Different Way'

With kids under 5 returning to the classroom — some in person for the first time — get ready for Big Feelings from adults and little ones alike.
The Hollywood Bowl has been transformed into a drive-thru food distribution on Thursdays in a season when the concerts are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LA Phil Announces Reopening of Hollywood Bowl, Ford Amphitheater

Based on county Public Health guidance, the Hollywood Bowl will be able to welcome a limited-capacity audience of 4,000 people when concerts resume beginning in May. The LA Phil anticipates ramping up to greater capacity later in the summer as guidelines evolve.