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Dodgers drop deal with L.A. Fire Department after criticism

Plan to provide emergency services at Dodgers games came under fire when officials acknowledged it would cost taxpayers money.

July 15, 2013|By Ben Welsh and Kate Linthicum
  • Since spring, the LAFD has stationed three ambulances at Dodgers home games to provide medical care.
Since spring, the LAFD has stationed three ambulances at Dodgers home games… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Following criticism from union leaders and city fire commissioners, the Los Angeles Dodgers are dropping a deal with the Los Angeles Fire Department to provide emergency medical service at the team's home games.

The arrangement, which started in April, called for three ambulances staffed by off-duty firefighters to be stationed at every game. It came under fire last week when Fire Department officials acknowledged that the plan would cost taxpayers money, and that on more than a dozen occasions the department has pulled on-duty firefighters away from their postings in stations across the city to staff the games. Department officials said that not enough off-duty firefighters had volunteered.

Fire Commissioner Alan J. Skobin, who had been critical of the arrangement, said the Dodgers' decision to drop the LAFD was a "good lesson for the Fire Department to learn about not getting into contracts without first determining whether there are adequate resources and how we can protect the taxpayers."

Dodgers spokesman Steve Brener said Monday that the team would seek bids from private ambulance companies.

That's what the team did in years past, but this spring the Dodgers announced that they would be working with the department instead.

The plan drew skepticism from the start.

The department has faced criticism over rising response times to emergencies. Department officials have blamed a lack of resources and have called on elected officials to reverse years of budget cuts.

Fire officials originally promised that the Dodger Stadium plan would come at no cost to taxpayers because the team would pay overtime to off-duty firefighters who volunteered to work the games. A contract for the arrangement was never completed.

During discussions about a draft contract last week, LAFD officials told the Fire Commission that a lack of volunteers had forced them to reassign on-duty firefighters 13 times.

Commissioners also raised concerns about the financial framework of the agreement. The draft contract required the Dodgers to pay only for the time firefighters spend at the stadium, leaving the city to pay for moving the units to and from Chavez Ravine. The head of the city firefighters union, citing similar complaints, called for an end to the deal.

A spokesman for the Fire Department said the department may pursue a contract with the Dodgers again after a new class of recruits increases its ranks next year.

"We remain interested in providing public safety services in the future," said Battalion Chief Armando Hogan. He also thanked the Dodgers "for the opportunity for this public-private collaboration."

ben.welsh@latimes.com

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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