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Angeles County | Community News File / Griffith Park

Copter Crash Prompts Calls for Updating of Equipment

April 01, 1998

A week after a deadly Fire Department helicopter crash near Griffith Park, the Los Angeles City Council approved a series of proposals Tuesday aimed at updating equipment for the city's public safety agencies.

Under a proposal by Councilman Richard Alatorre, the council agreed to ask all city departments for an inventory of their equipment needs and to propose a plan for financing them. Under a related motion by Councilwoman Laura Chick, the council agreed to examine whether a Police Department helicopter replacement program has been ignored.

A third proposal, offered by Chick and Alatorre and approved by the council, called for a full report on the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of three firefighters and an 11-year-old girl being transported to a hospital after a car accident.

Although the council approved the proposals, Councilwoman Rita Walters said she believes that the lawmakers were acting prematurely. She said the Fire Department should come back first with a report and then the council should help determine its needs.

"I think we're all anxious to see that our city is well protected and certainly our Fire Department should have safer equipment. . . . But I think that the proper procedure would be to ask the fire chief for a report," Walters said.

Still, council members said they want to ensure that they know about department needs, particularly about helicopters and other lifesaving equipment.

Firefighters' union President Ken Buzell told the council that his department is woefully behind.

"Equipment has taken a back seat," he said. "A tragedy like the one we just had is going to cost the city more than a new helicopter."

The union head also said that firefighters' breathing apparatus is 20 years old and that air bottles that are used to help breathe while battling blazes have a capacity of only nine minutes.

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