LOS ANGELES — Bracing for a $54 million cut in the next budget, Fire Chief Millage Peaks on Friday announced a new plan to reduce the number of fire engines in service while boosting the city's ability to respond to medical emergencies.
Peaks said the new plan, detailed in a 14-page memo released Friday, brings an end to the rolling brownouts at fire stations around the city, but gives the department flexibility to respond to emergencies.
"The 2011 Deployment Plan is designed to maximize service delivery under a reduced budget," the memo to all LAFD workers said.
The plan will be phased in beginning in June and take full effect by July 5.
Once implemented, it will eliminate one division and two battalion offices; end service by 11 engine companies and seven light forces; upgrade 10 fire companies to paramedic companies; and open an emergency medical service battalion office.
It eliminates the staff assistant positions from seven battalion companies and renames the remaining staff assistants as emergency incident technicians.
The changes are partly to reflect the fact that demand for fire service is secondary to the medical calls the department receives. Officials have said more than 80 percent of its calls are for medical care.
Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, harshly criticized the new plan.
"This is really disgusting," McOsker said. "The mayor and the fire chief came out with a plan to permanently reduce fire company and ambulance protection in neighborhoods throughout the city only two days after the City Council's Personnel Committee voted to hire nine more civilian investigators.
"The money they are throwing at their pet project would be much better spent keeping a couple of fire companies or ambulances open to protect lives. Closing fire department resources means responses will be delayed to emergencies and that means lives will be lost unnecessarily."
The Personnel Committee action was taken to hire investigators for the voter-approved Professional Standards Division.
The proposal is modeled after the Inspector General's Office in the Los Angeles Police Department and was the result of a number of lawsuits and incidents within the LAFD.
Under the new plan, emergency medical services are being elevated and a new concept of paired battalions is being developed to make sure there is coverage throughout the city.
Plans are to develop a computerized tracking system of calls to adjust deployments.
In the San Fernando Valley, which is being renamed from Division 3 to North Division, five engine companies are being closed and two light force companies are being dropped, to be replaced with assessment companies. Also, there are a number of shifts in ambulance service throughout the area.
The plan is expected to be reviewed by the City Council's Public Safety Committee as well as the Budget and Finance Committee as they review the $6.9 billion proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.