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    Fire Services Review Advises Maintaining LB's Four-Firefighter Per Truck/Engine Staffing

    LB Fire Chief Ellis Says He Will NOT Recommend Relocating Or Consolidating ELB Fire Stns Advised In Study

    Many Study Findings Validate Current LBFD Practices, Some Offer Revenue Suggestions

    (February 4, 2005, updated Feb. 5 & 9 w/ add'l detail) -- A Fire Services Review by consultants hired by city management with City Council approval recommends maintaining LB's four-firefighter staffing per truck/engine among 126 recommendations and 15 initiatives, many of which validate and approve current LBFD practices.

    However LB Fire Chief Dave Ellis said that he and LBFD command staff are NOT recommending ELB fire station closures and consolidations to meet current budgetary goals. Such closures and consolidations are among the recommendations of the consultants that authored the review.

    The report was released at a Feb. 4 City Hall news conference by Deputy City Manager Reginald Harrison, flanked by Chief Ellis.

    The study explicitly validates LBFD's current four-person staffing on fire trucks/engines:

    Four-person engine companies are recommended for Long Beach. Multiple company operations (i.e., where engine and truck companies work together) are frequent in Long Beach. LBFD needs a lot of resources (firefighters) to perform fire operations. The City also has high call volume and many fire or emergency risks. While some cities are good candidates for three-person staffing, Long Beach is not.

    LBFD Chief Ellis, Feb/05Chief Ellis said he and Fire Command Staff agree with most of the study's recommendations...but they do not agree with -- and Chief Ellis will not recommend -- closing or consolidating some ELB fire stations to meet current budgetary goals. Chief Ellis said:

    "The one thing that I think is really most important that we talk about right here, and I just want to make sure that I'm clear on, is that the Fire Command staff and I do not support the recommendations that are in this study that deal with station closures or consolidations to meet any current budgetary goals...We really feel that the options that are provided within this report give us a number of areas where we can actually generate additional revenue or cost recovery. We want to focus on those and we don't want to close fire stations."

    [add'l update] Chief Ellis added:

    The most important thing is geographic: how long does it take you to go from that fire station to the farthest point within the district? And what we recognize in the areas that they discuss is we can't meet the response profiles that are gauged both on NFPA [Nat'l Fire Protection Assn standard] 1710 and also just the response that we have been driven as regards the community expectations of fire service and medical services out there. So we don't feel it would be a viable option because it would actually put the public at risk and would also put firefighters at risk.

    They do talk about opportunities with some stations actually being merged...specifically they talk about Station 5 and Station 18. That's under review as far as we're concerned. We don't recommend the closure of any station right now, but as things go out in years future, if we have the opportunity to, let's say, rebuild a station centrally located in that area and combine resources, we'd be interested in taking a look at the model and see if that would that would that would deliver the service to the community as regards response times and we would be agreeable to something like that.

    But a lot of legwork has to go into it before that, and also procurement of land, and building a fire station. And so that would be some high cost that currently with the climate that we have in the budget deficit, we wouldn't be able to move forward on building a new fire station. [end update]

    With respect to the balance of the report, Chief Ellis said that it's "really been an excellent opportunity...being able to take a look at best practices not just in the local area, in the southern California region, but statewide and nationwide as regards different ways of delivering service...As we go through all these different recommendations, we found that in a lot of cases the study actually validates both past and current practices of the Department."

    He noted that the study presents 126 different recommendations and 15 initiatives. "We as Command Staff...found that as we go through the report that we're in agreement with most of the recommendations."

    Chief Ellis said a number of important labor issues are currently being negotiated, including wage issues, wage freeze, reduction possible in skilled premium pay, sworn employee pension contributions and also insurance contributions.

    The study, by TriData (a division of System Planning Corp.) and Public Financial Management, states in its Executive Summary that it was conducted for the purpose of finding "areas of potential savings within the LBFD to help meet the City's fiscal year 2005 (FY 05) strategic goal of reducing city spending" by saving $1.3 million within the LBFD budget. It adds, "As secondary goals,the City hoped to improve effectiveness of service delivery and generate ideas on how to improve revenue sources."

    The Fire Services study said, "If no changes were made the level of service would continue to be good" and its recommended fire station "relocations and consolidations" (i.e., some station closures) are visualized as "long-term opportunities to improve an already good system and reduce some costs."

    The report said that in the current configuration, 88.7% of FY 02-03 LBFD calls were within reach using a four minute travel time...and if the study's station closures and changes were made, the percentage in reach would be 89.9% with fewer stations and personnel.

    The study's recommendations on closing and/or consolidating fire stations include:

    • Relocating Station 9 (3917 LB Blvd.) to a location near Atlantic Ave. and 36th St. "This location was chosen because it is a commercial area and provides for excellent coverage of the area as well as providing overlap with Stations 7, 11, and 13.

    • Consolidate Stations 5 (7575 E. Wardlow) and 18 (3361 Palo Verde) at a new location in the area of Wardlow Rd. at Studebaker. "This location was chosen partly because the area along East Wardlow Road at Studebaker Road and to the south and east a few blocks is zoned for development. The consolidation can take place before a new station is built. Station 5 can be used as a temporary location (Station 18 is likely too small). However, a new facility should be built within the next three years, if possible.

    • Add a rescue unit to Station 22 (6340 Atherton).

    The report added that while the current station and personnel deployment model "provides City residents with excellent coverage and the required redundancy when units are busy," one of the "problems with the current that several stations have too much overlap, thus some areas (most notably in the northeast and southeast quadrants) have opportunity to consolidate stations. A second problem is that many of the existing stations are old, with few opportunities to consolidate units since the stations are small."

    To provide what it called "a model that offers good coverage at less cost, the consultants recommended consolidating Engine 18 and Engine 5. "Stations 5 and 18 currently have a call volume of 700 and 1557 calls annually (total 2,257) and removing paramedics from Engines at Stations 4, 7 and 22...and adding paramedic rescue to station 22. Also recommended was eliminate a fifth firefighter on Truck 1 [already done], integrating Lifeguard Boat 21 and Lifeboat 15 under a single command. (Total personnel savings FY 04-05 $910,000 ($460,443 from General Fund, $450,305 from Tidelands).

    The report said one area for improvement was in call processing (dispatch) and turnout times. "The average call processing time for the LBFD was 1:41 with a 90th percentile time of 2:39. These times are well above [emphasis in original] the Commission of Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) recommendations and should be reviewed to determine the cause. [Footnote: Response times are measured when the fire dispatcher receives the call...]." the report said.

    The report also suggested, "The City and Fire Dept. might examine a public safety tax initiative. Such a tax would likely constitute a special tax pursuant to Proposition 218, which requires approval of special taxes by two-thirds of qualified voters."

    [updated text] In response to a question from, Deputy City Manager Harrison said, "The City Attorney's is looking at that. Some cities in California, I think San Francisco might be one of them...have implemented that and they're going through a legal process, so we're waiting for some of those issues to be resolved legally." [end updated text]

    The Fire Services Study will be presented at a February 8 City Council study session, 3:00 p.m. at City Hall and open to the public, which will also be televised on LBTV channel 8.

    [The Fire Services Study is now posted on LB City Hall's web site at the following site: Fire Services study.]

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