LA's ambulance shortage impacting city's public safety, paramedic says

Los Angeles city paramedics are once again speaking out against their management and department, exposing what they call a citywide problem that is public safety. 

They're talking about not having enough ambulances to cover your emergencies. They point to a critical emergency call made on April 21, 2023. 

Two 4-year-old brothers were in cardiac arrest after being found in the family pool in Porter Ranch.

"What these children needed was to be taken to a hospital. This is not an issue that's fixed or recovered in the field. This is something that you need a hospital for," says an LAFD paramedic. 

Information provided by whistleblowers inside the LAFD shows the timeline of the incident. The call to 9-1-1 was made at 10:34 a.m. 

Engine 8 was dispatched at 10:35 a.m. and was on scene with a paramedic by 10:39 a.m. – an impressive 4-minute response. 

But there was a problem; Station 8 did not have a rescue ambulance.

"Station 8 is one of the eight fire stations that the LAFD does not have an ambulance assigned to. We don't know why. For years, decades, we've been asking to have an ambulance at every fire station. And we just keep being told the call volume isn't big enough. It's not busy enough," says an LAFD paramedic. 

Frustrated LAFD paramedics spoke with us with the agreement that we would protect their identity. They say the next closest fire station with an ambulance was 107. Personnel was on the scene within six minutes, but 107's rescue ambulance was busy dealing with an emergency in a different district.

"Yes, a fire engine showed up within six minutes, but all they could do was CPR, and they had to wait an additional 10 minutes for a ride to the hospital. Imagine you being the mother watching this fire department sit there for 10 minutes and not leaving for the hospital. It has to be disheartening," said an LAFD paramedic. 

Station 107 is part of Battalion 15 in the Valley. On Friday morning, April 21, when the twins needed to be transported to the hospital immediately, all rescue ambulances in that area were busy and unavailable. 

It took 14 minutes for the first ambulance and 15 minutes for the second to finally arrive at one of the most high-level emergency calls: children in cardiac arrest. 

"Is 14 and 15 minutes acceptable?" asked FOX 11’s Gina Silva

"Not at all," the paramedic said. "It's not acceptable at all. Fourteen minutes is a 140% chance of not surviving, according to the American Heart Association, if you're in cardiac arrest. These children, these families, and the people of Los Angeles deserve more; they deserve better."

"You coming forward with this information – doesn't make the department look good," Silva said.

 "We're not trying to make the department look bad. We are on the ground every day," the paramedic said. "We're running the 2,000-plus calls a day and we pour our heart and our souls into everything that we do. Our management need to be more forceful. They need to press the city council and the Mayor with the true needs. We don't believe that they're doing that."

In February, FOX 11 first exposed the serious problems plaguing the LA city Fire Department.

LAFD Chief Kristin Crowley assured us a 15-minute response time is rare.

"There is about 1.2% of the time when there is an extended response time of something like you said over 15 minutes," Crowley said.

"This happens every single day, and here is a perfect example, now one kid is dead, and the other one is fighting for his life," said the paramedic FOX 11 spoke with.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 'It happens every day': LAFD paramedics say 911 response times continue to rise

The LA Fire Department issued a statement that says in part:

"This is a very tragic incident for the family and for our LAFD members who rendered care on the scene. It is the strategy of the LAFD to staff Firefighter Paramedics on resources other than Rescue Ambulances; in fact, there is 85 total (60 fire engines and 25 fire trucks) throughout the city. Putting a paramedic, the highest level of medical authority outside of a hospital setting, on as many resources as possible ensures we maximize our efforts to save lives." 

 "Technically, yes, we had a resource on the scene, but that resource was not what that incident needed," an LAFD source said. "If you suffer a serious traumatic injury, having a fire engine sit on the scene and wait for an ambulance does not help you. You need to be taken to a hospital where you can have surgical intervention, and they just refuse to provide enough ambulances for that."

Just a few days after the emergency in Porter Ranch, a mother was killed, and her 6-year-old daughter was critically injured on April 25 when a truck driver slammed into them as they were walking in the Mid-Wilshire district. 

Off-camera, a witness asked our FOX 11 crew why it took so long for an ambulance to arrive.

An LAFD paramedic explains, "This isn't just isolated to one part of the city or one demographic. This is a city-wide issue." 

The 9-1-1 call was made at 7:55 a.m., LAFD responded with several resources, but the first rescue ambulance arrived 16 minutes later. The second ambulance showed up in 17 minutes.

"It's very tragic, and it's very sad, but unfortunately, that's just the norm," said an LAFD paramedic. 

When asked what they want from their Fire Chief, the Mayor, and the city, one LAFD paramedic said, "We're asking the chief if you will go to the Mayor and the city council and be honest and tell them the true situation of the department."

"It's clear to anybody that there are just not enough ambulances in the city of Los Angeles, and the fire department, the Mayor, the city council, they will all go to great lengths to sidestep and dance around it. But the fact is, they just won't put more ambulances into service, and we just don't know why," the paramedic adds. 

Fox 11 News Investigates has done numerous stories on the LAFD in Crisis. We asked if anything had changed since we began our reporting. 

"Thanks to you and your exposing of this dangerous problem. We are getting more supplies for the first time in probably two or three months. We have medications that aren't expired that we're giving to our patients. We have all the supplies needed to deliver care for whatever emergency that we come across. So, for that, we thank you. Now we need to switch focus, and hopefully, they will address the additional issue and just give more ambulances to the citizens of Los Angeles," the paramedic told FOX 11.