The first cuts to the department came in 2009, when the cash-strapped city began a program of rotating ambulance and fire truck closures. Within months, the department acknowledged that critical minutes were lost in several emergency medical calls, including one in which rescuers took more than 10 minutes to arrive at a Bel-Air home where a 3-year-old boy had drowned in a swimming pool.
"Every minute that you add to a response to a heart attack, or the beginning of a fire, that could actually be a life and death issue," Councilman Paul Koretz said of the cuts. He said the city needs to know "the real, perfectly accurate numbers."
"It's very disconcerting that the numbers on which we base significant life and death policy decisions…are flawed."
Lawmakers say that with a $220-million budget shortfall, it's unlikely the Fire Department will recoup any emergency units this year. But the issue could be kept alive in the mayor's race, in which several contenders are vying to replace Villaraigosa.
City Controller Wendy Greuel, one mayoral candidate, said her office plans to investigate the response times and look at the effects of the cuts.
"It is clear that there was a misrepresentation," she said. "If standards changed, if numbers changed, the public should be informed of that, as well as leadership."
Los Angeles Times staff writer Ben Welsh contributed to this report.