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Fire Dept. Budget Cuts Could Be Factor in Child's Deaths

Photo by jondoeforty1 via Flickr
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Although officials don't know for sure, the drowning of a 3-year-old boy last week might have been prevented if rolling cuts were not in effect. To close a $54 million gap in the department's budget, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cut non-emergency overtime in lieu of furloughs or layoffs. The cut meant shutting down 15 engines and 9 ambulances at rotating locations around the city daily.

When a 3-year-old boy drowned in a Bel-Air swimming pool last week, the closest fire station did not have available units because they were already on a call, which happened to be dispatched 94 seconds before. Despite claims that response times would remain under 7 minutes citywide, it took units from a different station more than 10 minutes to respond, according to the LA Times investigation.

"There’s no way to tell if it would have made a difference," Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva told the Times, noting the difference in distance was minimal--one-tenth to three-tenths further for the second nearest station. However, the firefighter's union would say it like a mantra: seconds and minutes can make a difference.

- Did the Firefighters' Union Take Advocacy Too Far?
- Fire Department Begins Cutting Services
- Villaraigosa is 'Pointing a Gun at Our Heads,' Says Firefighters Union