Los Angeles Fire Department response times may not be as fast as statistics would have you believe, it was reported Saturday.
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, discussing fire department budget and staffing reductions in recent years in a Huffington Post column, said response times have increased as a result. In 2008, Beutner said firefighters responded to medical emergencies within five minutes 86 percent of the time and that, after the cuts, the department in 2011 year met that standard 59 percent of the time.
But, when questioned about the figures by the Los Angeles Times, fire department officials admitted on Friday that for years the agency used data that made it appear that firefighters were arriving at the scene of emergencies faster than they actually were.
Federal guidelines call for first responders to arrive in less than five minutes 90 percent of the time. But the Times reported that a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, and that inflated the percentage of firefighters arriving within five minutes of a dispatch.
Retired Capt. Billy Wells said he followed the department's tradition of using a six-minute response standard, and his successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he continued using the formula for a while, because he didn't want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance.
"I didn't want to touch that (extra) minute because I knew the data would take a dump," Woolf told the Times.
Corrected data shows that in 2008, the department actually hit the five-minute goal 64 percent of the time, officials said. By last year, that number had fallen to about 60 percent, the newspaper reported.
Fire Department spending has been reduced more than 15 percent in recent years, and about a quarter of the city's 106 fire stations have eliminated staffing for fire trucks or ambulances, according to the Times.
Beutner was first deputy mayor under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa prior to
the fire department staffing plan being put into effect, according to a
Beutner staff member.
-- City News Service