May 24, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Fighting Fires, Tackling Homelessness, Saving Lives

The role of fire departments in 21st-century urban centers. 

By Keldine Hull

Do firefighters fight fires? Obviously, but most of the time fire is not what calls them to action. 

It’s been nearly 130 years since the Santa Monica Fire Department (SMFD) was formed, and since then, many changes have occurred within the department including the way firefighters are trained to the kinds of calls they respond to. In a recent Santa Monica City Council, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole, while speaking about the city’s financial future, addressed the shift in the type of emergencies firefighters respond to on a daily basis. 

“100 years ago, when a city our size would have 1,000 fires a year, you’d have a department that was exclusively devoted to fighting fires. Now our fire department spends less than one percent of their time fighting fires,” Cole said. “99 percent of their time is on emergency medical and 25 percent of their time is on dealing with homelessness.”

Yo! Venice reached out to Cole to expand on this topic. According to Cole, around .06 percent of the calls to service the SMFD gets in a year are for structure fires. 

“We average one or two structure fires a week in Santa Monica, yet the Fire Department responds to over 17,000 emergency calls a year. Many of these calls, about 20-25 percent of our 911 call volume, are about people experiencing homelessness. The Fire Department responds to medical and other emergencies, including reports of ‘man down’ or a person in distress.” Cole adds, “More often than not, when our crews arrive the person has already left, is simply asleep or suffers from chronic medical conditions that do not involve immediate treatment or transport to an emergency room. We now have a Fire Captain on special assignment working with our Police Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team, our Human Services Division and other County and non-profit providers to work on more effective ways to prevent and handle these calls.”

The Home Liaison Program (HLP Team) is a six-officer unit that, according to the City of Santa Monica’s website, uses traditional law enforcement and social service strategies to address homeless issues. This special unit plays a key role in the City’s Action Plan by linking outreach and mental health services to mentally ill homeless individuals encountered by the police.

The SMFD isn’t the only fire department that responds to such a high percentage of medical related emergencies. According to Brian Humphrey, spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, “More than four out of five calls we receive are medical related. 

Approximately 85 percent of our daily activity relates to emergency medical services. The remainder are a broad variety of fire-related services which would include structure fires and vehicle fires.” Humphrey adds that while fires have diminished over the years due to building codes, public education, and safer appliances, there’s still a significant impact of fires on the city.” 

Growing public awareness has also had an impact on fires throughout the Westside as well. 

“Fires, while more rare today because of advanced building codes, effective inspections and public education, still pose a constant threat in an urban environment. That’s why we still maintain our crews and equipment in constant readiness even as they respond to a wide range of other calls, plus they obviously pose a critical first line of response for natural and man-made disasters as well as mutual aid for wildland/urban fires,” Cole said. “The world has obviously changed in the last 100 years. The role of police, libraries, parks, fire and other services continue to evolve.” 

Related Posts

California: Pioneering the Future of Online and Digital Payments

January 11, 2024

January 11, 2024

In the fast-paced digital economy of the 21st century, California has emerged as a powerhouse in the realm of online...

A Guide to the Current Gambling Situation in Canada

January 1, 2024

January 1, 2024

For centuries, gambling has woven itself into the fabric of human culture; in recent years–marking an era where evolution pervades...

Smart Strategies to Save Money in Your Entertainment Budget

December 30, 2023

December 30, 2023

Many individuals and families in today’s fast-paced world share a common goal: finding ways to save money. The entertainment budget...

California’s top sports teams.

December 1, 2023

December 1, 2023

California is known worldwide for a multitude of exciting things. They’re known for their incredible beaches, glorious sunshine, and fabulous...

Your Lucky Numbers: Six Tips Towards Lottery Success

November 30, 2023

November 30, 2023

Have you ever wondered how people win money from the lottery? They may not always hit the jackpot, but they...

Five different ways to unwind.

October 1, 2023

October 1, 2023

Modern life is always busy and it can feel like your to-do list is never ending. When you’re not working,...

Over Half of Short-Term Rentals Advertised in LA Don’t Comply With City’s Home Sharing Ordinance

April 4, 2023

April 4, 2023

Better Neighbors LA report highlights the inadequacies of enforcement measures for short-term rentals in Los Angeles, calling for increased regulation...

Venice Beach Attempted Murder Suspect Arrested in West Virginia

December 22, 2022

December 22, 2022 1

Brandon Manyo Dixon arrest in West Virginia By Sam Catanzaro A man has been arrested for the attempted murder of...

The Current Gambling Situation in California

December 1, 2022

December 1, 2022

Here’s what to know about everything from online casinos to betting in the state. In the U.S., gambling is a...

Cancer Cartel Provides Financial Help To Cancer Patients

November 16, 2022

November 16, 2022 2

Cancer Cartel is helping cancer patients focus on their treatment, not the financial stress of living with a diagnosis. Learn...

100 Miles of Bus-Only Lanes Within Five Years on City Council Plans

October 17, 2022

October 17, 2022

L.A’s public transportation network is known for being slow due to traffic congestion. A new motion by L.A. City Council...

What Is the Most Effective Way to Sell a Used Car?

October 6, 2022

October 6, 2022

It’s no secret that selling a used car can be difficult. You have to find the right buyer, negotiate a...

How Do I Know What Types of Commercial Trucking Insurance Coverage I Need?

October 1, 2022

October 1, 2022

Running a small trucking company is expensive. You must comply with many rules set forth by the Federal Motor Carriers...

Best Ways To Show Your LA Baseball Love

August 10, 2022

August 10, 2022

Los Angeles is a sports lover’s paradise. In every sport except for the NHL, locals have two teams to choose...