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11 County Fire Stations Face Closure : Services: Four paramedic units are also on the list. 'Lives could be lost, no question about it,' the fire chief says. The proposed cuts are in response to Gov. Wilson's plan to siphon local taxes to Sacramento.


SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — The Los Angeles County Fire Department has listed 11 San Gabriel Valley fire stations and four paramedic units for closure if Gov. Pete Wilson's proposed state budget is approved.

Fire stations in Glendora, Azusa, Claremont, City of Industry, Altadena, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Rosemead and Irwindale are targeted, and two of Walnut's three stations would close, County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said Tuesday. Paramedic squads would be cut for Glendora, La Puente, Walnut and Altadena.

"Lives could be lost, no question about it," Freeman said. "We don't have a single station that I could recommend for closure, but what we are facing is a 34% cut in our revenue."

The county operates 31 fire stations in the San Gabriel Valley that serve 16 cities and all unincorporated areas. Stations would be spared in Bradbury, Baldwin Park, Diamond Bar, Duarte, Hacienda Heights, La Puente, San Dimas, South El Monte and Temple City.

Freeman said Wilson's proposal to shift $122 million in property tax revenue from the county fire district to the state could force the elimination of 41 of 127 fire stations in Los Angeles County, 16 of 47 paramedic squads, a fire-paramedic helicopter, 24 command officers and 917 firefighters and staff.

"Our property taxes should stay here," Freeman said. "I cannot and will not defend the closures."

Stations were targeted for closure if they were near other fire stations, Freeman said. However, average response times will increase countywide from five to seven minutes for fire engines and from seven to 12 minutes for paramedics, he said.

Firefighters who are first on the scene of a heart attack, for example, might be called on to give more emergency care because paramedics would not be as readily available, Freeman said.

City officials expressed alarm that fire stations and paramedic units serving their communities might be eliminated.

"It's a tragedy waiting to happen," said Frank Bridal, a town council member in Altadena, where one of two county-run fire stations is targeted for closure, along with a paramedic squad.

Other officials warned that more brush fires would get out of control.

"They are closing the station closest to the canyon areas, the first place a fire will occur," Azusa Mayor Eugene F. Moses said of the proposed shutdown of Station 97 on East Sierra Madre Avenue, one of the city's two fire stations.

"On hot summer days, if we can't get a firetruck up there quickly, things could get out of hand," he said.

The city, whose fire contract with the county is up for renewal, might consider discontinuing county service, said Moses. Meanwhile, the Covina City Council Tuesday rejected a proposal to contract with the County Fire Department, in part due to proposed cutbacks in county fire services.

Glendora officials shared Moses' fears.

"You don't take away a fire station next to dry-brush mountains, and you especially don't take away paramedics squads next to the hospitals," City Manager Art Cook said.

The county provides Glendora with fire protection from three stations. The fire station on Glendora's Amelia Road and nearby Station 97 in Azusa are scheduled to close, along with a paramedic squad near Foothill Presbyterian Hospital and Glendora Community Hospital.

County fire officials say paramedics from San Dimas and Azusa would take those calls.

Claremont could lose its fire station at Sumner Avenue, one of three county fire stations in the city.

"We just built a new station with the county," said City Manager Glenn D. Southard.

He said Station 62, on North Padua Avenue, opened earlier this year after the county and city jointly financed a new building to replace a run-down county station.

The cuts are surely coming, Rosemead Assistant City Manager Don Wagner said, if the Legislature doesn't come up with the money. County supervisors last month rejected a plan by county fire officials to raise property taxes by increasing the special fire district assessment.

"People don't think policemen and firemen are going to get laid off," said Wagner, whose city stands to lose one of its two county-run fire stations. "But that is what is going to happen."

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