A friend of mine, a retired LA County Fire Captain who lives in Venice, set out to talk with LAFD officials recently about the increase in transient-related fires in Venice and Councilman Bonin’s stationing of a “tiny” fire truck on the Boardwalk…but only during daylight hours.
After talking to various LAFD personnel, his appraisal is that it is a public relations stunt of little practical value.
The truck was developed for use on Skid Row in DTLA, but then was just warehoused because it was not found to be effective in that setting.
Since the truck and crew come from DTLA each day, and there are certain pre- and post- departure and return protocols to be observed, the crew’s effective time on the Boardwalk is only about 10 AM to 3 PM.
The two emergency medical techs that crew the truck are paid time and a half.
The truck is not patched into the LAFD’s main dispatch system so they are not tasked with responding to other fires or emergencies in the area, such as a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident occurring off the Boardwalk. So, the presence of the truck and crew does not increase fire and paramedic response anywhere else in Venice.
The stationing of the truck amounts to giving a population of 250 beach campers their own private fire and paramedic force for a few hours a day when there is little need at that hour, while there is no immediate coverage when it is needed; i.e., in the overnight hours when 99% of the fires occur – across Venice, not just on the Boardwalk.
He heard that LAFD personnel consider the whole exercise as “a joke.”
He also determined that the presence of all the campers on the Boardwalk has dramatically reduced LAFD response time to serious emergencies elsewhere in Venice and in surrounding CD11 communities, such as West LA, Mar Vista and Del Rey. He told me that when #63 crews and equipment are out on calls to the Boardwalk, especially at night, emergencies elsewhere in Venice must be covered by crews from elsewhere in CD11, with much longer response times. Then, when there are emergencies in those neighborhoods, engines and crews must deploy from even farther away.
My conclusion is that Judge Carter’s injunction forcing the city and county to get all of the campers into some form of shelter by September should be supported and implemented to stop the dangerous situation we face as a community from fires and crime on a 24-hour basis here in Venice. And not on public beaches, beach parking lots or in city parks.