During that walking tour, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to watch as the fire crew returned from an emergency call.
The station house, in its present location dates back to 1939. You can see the history of Station 39 in photos at the LAFD Historical Archive. Since it’s opening nearly a century ago, little has changed on its function and form over the years except for the equipment and the jobs that the Fire Department has been tasked to do. One thing that does stand out as consistent is the level professionalism of the fireman who staffed them which you can see in the photos.
Personally, visiting the firehouse took me back nearly 35 years to my own childhood when, on a preschool excursion, I payed a visit to that same station. Very little had changed from my childhood memory except for my level of respect for the work that the do.
Rather than just making this a trip down memory lane, I spent some time talking to some of the crew in the fire house which gave me a unique one-on-one opportunity to talk about what they do, how the do it, and what some of their challenges are. In that conversation I got a feel for the work they do in such a large city that, they feel, puts the LAFD under a constant state of scrutiny and threats of budget cuts.
For some context, station 39 is one of 9 stations under Battalion 10 which covers roughly 48 square miles in the San Fernando Valley. When poised for that imminent emergency call in their station house, Station 39 could be deployed just about anywhere around the LA basin as the needs of their services and fire protection demands.
But, despite their heroic stature in recent years, the LAFD have been under fire (no pun intended) and scrutinized for response times and delays in responding to 911 emergencies. The impact of that kind of professional doubt makes for interesting conversation as you talk about the work they do and the circumstances they work under. it made me question myself for how well I could perform with so many voices in the mix questioning my work product.
And, if political scrutiny wasn’t enough, the LAFD has been under the challenge to fill some 300 positions as boomer generation firefighters retire out creating holes in staffing and future challenges to meeting sufficient manpower demands. If you’ve ever considered being a fireman, now is the time to start applying.
The impression that I walked away with was that it doesn’t sound like an easy job to do or an easy environment to do it in.
One of their biggest concerns, on the morning I visited, was the upcoming prop 32 vote in November.
Prop 32, if you’re not in the know, proposes to ban both corporate and union contributions to state and local candidates, ban contributions by government contractors to the politicians who control contracts awarded to them, and ban automatic deductions by corporations, unions, and government of employees’ wages to be used for politics.
What prop 32 doesn’t do, according to the California Labor Federation, is stop special interest money. Their take is that it “gives special exemptions to corporate special interests and Super PACs” giving “even more power to the wealthy and well-connected to influence elections, control government and weaken our state’s middle class.”
Essentially, for the firemen, the feel that Prop 32 would be used as a tool to silence the voice of unions (their union in particular) while allowing corporations and the wealthy to spend as much as they want on political issues, two elements that, opponents of the measure say, would be left to dabble in.
After my conversation, I had to look up the proposition to see how and why it was such a sore spot to the LAFD. The concern, I found, is that their union, the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, feels the same, that they won’t have a voice in their future budgets if prop 32 is passed.
I did find an interesting video that talked about prop 32 which spoke to the fireman’s concern over the issue.
All said, the firefighters, like all professionals are wont to do, like to talk about the work that they do and how they could do it better. A good opportunity to meet your local SFV fire fighters is coming up at the Valley Disaster Preparedness Fair at Fire Station 87 in Granada Hills where you can ask the fireman there what they think of the proposition.
You might be surprised with what you hear.