On Friday, only one day away from Fire Station 69’s Pancake Fundraiser, Fire Capt. Scott Gribbons and Capt. Joe Teijeira of the Los Angeles Fire Department received a notice that Pacific Palisades’ permanently on July 5.
Engine 69 is a multipurpose vehicle with an attached water tank, able to carry firemen and plays an integral role in the station’s ability to fight fires. The engine is currently housed at Fire Station 69 located at 15045 Sunset Boulevard.
The cuts are part of a master plan called the "2011 Deployment Plan” which will eliminate one division and two battalion offices, 11 engine companies and seven light forces while upgrading 10 fire companies to paramedic companies, reported The Daily News.
Engine 69 will be shut down and may only be used as a reserve, said Gribbons, who was busy filling out the transfer requests for the engine’s crew.
“They are going to be transferred to other areas of the city,” Gribbons said. “The engine has been in operation since this station first opened in 1967 . . . it has helped fight countless fires and saved numerous lives . . . (The cuts should) start somewhere other than where the rubber meets the road.”
The action is a response to a predicted slump in the LAFD budget of more than $50 million and will reduce the workforce at Fire Station 69 by more than 40 percent, said Teijeira. The company will be reduced to a light force with only one truck and ambulance, decreasing the station’s ability to respond to simultaneous calls and fires, he said.
“People pay a lot of money (in taxes) for protection but they are not going to be getting it,” said a fireman who wished to remain anonymous. “Chief Peaks is meeting with (local newspapers) and painting a happy face on a bad situation as we speak.”
Morale is very low because of this action, said Teijeira.
The study that led to the changes analyzed the number of emergency calls and recorded a higher number of medical incidents. Unfortunately, the study did not concern itself with the way the terrain in Pacific Palisades is laid out and how the reduction would impact response time in the event of a large brush or structure fire, said several firemen from the station.
“For instance, if we get a call for an injured hiker it takes us a few hours to reach them,” Gribbons said. “I would hate to be the second person calling about a fire.”
The cuts come five months away from the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack, which led to the loss of many lives including 343 firefighters.
“It seems many have forgotten on this coming 10th anniversary (of September 11) the sacrifices that were made that day,” said a fireman, who wished to remain anonymous.
Engine 69, which will be permanently shut down as of July 5, 2011, may only be used in certain situations as backup for other damaged engines, said Gribbons.
The fact that the reduction is happening in the midst of the coming fire season is a concern, said one the station’s firemen.
In 1961, a fire in the surrounding areas led to the destruction of 7200 acres and destroyed more than 200 homes, which included the residences of Burt Lancaster, Joe E. Brown and Zsa Zsa Gabor, according to a Nov. 7 1961 issue of the Gettysburg Times.
More than 2000 people were evacuated from their homes during the 1961 fire, which led to calls for increased fire protection in the area.
“Official said the fires will join, forming a 10-mile flaming front. If they continue burning southward, all of heavily populated Pacific Palisades near the ocean will be in danger,” reported the Gettysburg Times in 1961. That was six years before Fire Station 69 first opened.
The area around the Palisades is prone to brush fires and the terrain, traffic and morale isn’t something that any program or study can calculate, said several firemen.