La Fire Department - Wildfire Sites

by : Matthew Paolini

California wildfires again riveted the nation's attention during a roughly two-week period beginning in mid-October 2007. Overall responsibility for California's efforts to prevent and fight wildfires is in the hands of CAL FIRE, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. However, a number of local counties, ranging from Marin, Kern and Santa Barbara to Ventura, Orange and Los Angeles County, are paid by CAL FIRE to provide wildfire services nominally considered the State's responsibility.

While most of the damage caused by the October 2007 wildfires was in San Diego County, firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) nevertheless responded to several wildfires in Los Angeles County. According to the LAFD website, firefighters from the city's fire department rolled out to both the so-called Buckweed Fire near Agua Dulce, about twelve miles north of Los Angeles, and the so-called Canyon Fire, a brush fire about eight miles west of Los Angeles near Malibu, California. Overall, the LAFD deployed five Strike Teams comprising some 150 firefighters during the October wildfire crisis.

The Los Angeles Fire Department is considered well-equipped to serve the fire-prevention and fire-fighting needs of America's second biggest city. Launched formally in 1886 as a paid firefighting service amalgamated from several volunteer services first formed in the 1870s, the LAFD has grown from its initial complement of four fire stations serving 50,000 residents to rank among the nation's biggest fire departments. Today, more than 3,600 uniformed firefighters man over 100 fire stations throughout metropolitan Los Angeles, where more than four million residents rely on the LAFD for a wide range of fire prevention and firefighting services. The Department also provides EMC services, hazmat mitigation and disaster response services.

An important but often overlooked part of the the force comprises the five fire boats that protect the Port of Los Angeles. Perched on the shores of San Pedro Bay, about thirty kilometers due south of downtown Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles is the busiest container port in the United States with a container volume of 7.4 million TEUs in 2004, the last year for which figures of this kind are available. More than one million cruise ship passengers annually also pass through the Port, which is by far the West Coast's largest cruise ship facility.

Five fire boats guard the Port of Los Angeles from fires that have the potential to be just as devastating as the California wildfires of 2007. The newest of these, the Warner Lawrence, is a 105-foot powerhouse capable of pumping 38,000 gallons of water per minute at heights of up to 400 feet. The Warner Lawrence replaced the LAFD's oldest fire boat, the 78-year-old Ralph J. Scott, in April 2003.