Without many resources, Los Angeles County fire extinguishers face an increase in emergency calls and a year-round fire season; Now they ask for your help.

Firefighters call 911 in these March 3 elections

Measure FD will be on the ballot on March 3.

Pilar Marrero / Impremedia

Anywhere in the country, the public is accustomed to dial the number 911 so that local emergency services respond to everything from fires, heart attacks, chemical spills and many other crises.

But the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) warns that it is experiencing an emergency of another category: the number of personnel and the renewal of its equipment have been stuck at the same level for years while the need for their services has radically increased

"For Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics, this is their own 911 emergency," Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said at a recent briefing at the LACFD training headquarters in El Sereno. “We have no other way to finance them by law than property taxes, it is impossible for us to use the county's general fund. And voters have not approved an increase in 20 years, while firefighters are dealing with a very different reality. ”

This different reality derives mainly from drier and hotter weather conditions and a year-round fire season that weighs heavily on available resources and limits the mutual help that fire departments used to lend to each other. Only about 14 months ago, three major fires occurred simultaneously in Los Angeles-Ventura (Woolsey), Northern California (Camp) and San Luis Obispo (Hill), which made mutual help between departments very difficult, the chief said. from LACFD, Daryl Osby.

"We are very busy and that is why we ask the general public for help," Osby said. Since 2008, the number of emergency calls has grown by 50% and the resources available only by 5%.

LA firefighters answer one of the thousands of emergency calls they receive daily.

Only a few days after this press conference with ethnic media, men from the LACFD paramedic and fire department would help in the rescue and recovery of the remains of the helicopter that killed the great basketball player Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and Seven other people. A few days earlier, they responded to the crisis caused by the massive fuel fall of a Delta Airliner plane that fell on schools and homes around the Los Angeles International Airport, while making an emergency landing.

Those are the big incidents. There are thousands of calls a day that arrive through the LACFD dispatch center, located in the training headquarters. When large events occur, sometimes small ones are delayed a few seconds or more, because the department is chronically lacking in personnel.

There is also a need to renew your technology.

"The emergency dispatch center was last updated in the 1980s," said Chief Osby. “At that time, people called from a fixed location – a land line – and we could answer the exact address. Now, 80% call from cell phones and the dispatcher takes additional seconds to get the address information and send help. Communication systems are incompatible with digital ones. ”

On February 3, Angels will be able to start voting by mail in the primary elections on March 3. LA County supervisors and firefighters will join to ask them to approve Measure FD, a parcel tax for the special fire district served by the department, which includes the unincorporated city of LA and 58 cities in Los Angeles and one in Orange (La Habra).

The measure has an especially high challenge: it must be approved by two thirds of the voters.

The department's management hopes to convince voters that it is in their best interest to invest in one of the nation's best trained fire departments. Hahn, whose father, supervisor Kenny Hahn, created the paramedic program 50 years ago, said the investment amounts to $ 90 extra annually for an owner of 1,500 square feet, the equivalent of 25 cents per day.

Technological equipment is far behind in LACFD.

"An extra room a day is what we ask people to pay to support this life-saving department (the elderly, non-profit organizations and government buildings are exempt)," said Hahn. “The situation is really serious. We would not be reaching voters with these types of questions if this were not a crisis. ”

Osby said the measure would allow his department to hire 250 new firefighters and paramedics in the coming years. The money will also go to the purchase of new equipment and to modernize the technological needs of the department.

Deputy Chief John O'Brien said there is a great need to hire diverse staff to reflect the community as a whole.

"Research in mega-disasters found that diversity makes a difference in problem solving in these cases," said O'Brien. "This county has become more diverse and we need firefighters and paramedics to reflect it."

Voters and other interested parties can read Measure FD in several languages ​​on this website: wearelacountyfire.org


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