Su­pes ap­prove plan to as­sess fire­fighter needs

The Signal - - Opinion - By Jim Holt Sig­nal Se­nior Staff Writer [email protected]­

County su­per­vi­sors want to know what fire of­fi­cials need to fight deadly wild­fires such as the Woolsey Fire and they’re pay­ing $4.5 mil­lion to get that an­swer.

On Tues­day, the Los An­ge­les County Board of Su­per­vi­sors ap­proved a rec­om­men­da­tion to in­struct the fire chief, in co­or­di­na­tion with the county’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and county lawyers, to hire a con­sul­tant who would con­duct a one-year pub­lic out­reach project.

Such a project would “cre­ate aware­ness of the new real­i­ties” faced by the Los An­ge­les County Fire Depart­ment.

Su­per­vi­sors Kathryn Bager and Jan­ice Hahn, who wrote the rec­om­men­da­tion, say those real­i­ties in­clude fi­nan­cial real­i­ties that af­fect the equip­ment, in­fra­struc­ture and the staffing of paramedics and fire­fight­ers needed for the job of bat­tling wild­fires.

The new re­al­ity also calls for sus­tain­ing the cur­rent high level of readi­ness of fire­fight­ers and that they re­main pre­pared to ef­fec­tively deal with the on­go­ing threat of wild­fires.

“Re­cent deadly fires re­mind us all that prepa­ra­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and readi­ness are key to sav­ing lives and prop­erty,” Barger spokesman Tony Bell said Tues­day.

It’s the hope of su­per­vi­sors that the out­reach project would gather in­put from res­i­dents about their ex­pe­ri­ences in re­cent fires, in­clud­ing the Woolsey Fire, as well as dayto-day 9-1-1 emer­gency med­i­cal re­sponses, in or­der to fully as­sess the ex­panded needs of the Fire Depart­ment.

Such a project would serve to ed­u­cate res­i­dents and lo­cal com­mu­nity lead­ers who are pro­tected by the Fire Depart­ment about the chal­lenges the depart­ment faces.

The rec­om­men­da­tion also calls for ap­prov­ing an ad­just­ment made to the bud­get that would trans­fer $4.5 mil­lion from the Ob­li­gated Fund Bal­ance Com­mit­ted for In­fra­struc­ture Growth to the Ser­vices and Sup­plies Ap­pro­pri­a­tion within the Fire Depart­ment’s Spe­cial District Fund.

And, lastly, the move would re­quire the fire chief to re­port back to the board in six months with a sta­tus, as well as a fi­nal re­port at the end of the project.

The Los An­ge­les County Fire Depart­ment pro­vides 24-hour emer­gency re­sponse, in­clud­ing fire and para­medic ser­vices, to more than 4 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing in 59 of the county’s 88 cities, the un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties and the city of La Habra in neigh­bor­ing Or­ange County.

The depart­ment’s vast 2,307-square-mile ju­ris­dic­tion also in­cludes 72 miles of coast­line.

Su­per­vi­sors called the Woolsey Fire “a text­book ex­am­ple of the ex­tra­or­di­nary – and new — chal­lenge our fire­fight­ers must con­front.”

In their notes to fel­low su­per­vi­sors re­view­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion, Barger and Hahn pointed out that the dev­as­tat­ing Woolsey wild­fire was “the worst to hit Los An­ge­les County in mod­ern his­tory,” not­ing it raged for al­most two weeks, burn­ing through 97,000 acres in­clud­ing pris­tine open space in the Santa Mon­ica Moun­tains.

It de­stroyed 2,000 struc­tures and dis­placed thou­sands of res­i­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the needs as­sess­ment per­formed ear­lier this year, the cost for re­plac­ing old fire en­gines, pur­chas­ing ad­di­tional he­li­copters and re­plac­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem is over $170 mil­lion.

The cost for re­pair­ing fire sta­tions – and in some cases re­plac­ing fire sta­tions that are over 50 years old – is close to $750 mil­lion.

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