By BRETT ROWLAND
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – The Los Angeles Fire Department has 115 employees who live outside the state of California, including one who lives in Alaska and five more who live on the East Coast.
With a few firefighters making more than $500,000 a year and a median home listing of $1 million in the city, whether Los Angeles should have a residency requirement is being discussed internally, according to a report and ongoing city council discussions.
About 15% of the firefighters live within the city limits, a figure that prompted fire officials to consider requiring firefighters to live closer to the area they protect in case of a major disaster.
The fire department has been working with the City Council to attract more city residents, women and minorities to the department. The fire department provided the council with several ways to boost those numbers.
The City Council passed a motion late last year for the police and fire departments to establish an incentive program to recruit more city residents.
“The majority of police officers and firefighters are not residents of the City of Los Angeles, which means other jurisdictions benefit from their spending on property tax, sales tax and other revenues,” according to a city council motion. “Longer commutes from other cities also create traffic congestion and increase air pollution. Finally and most importantly, the communities that officers and firefighters serve are often not the ones that they themselves belong to, which can create a natural disconnect between public servants and constituents.”
That so many firefighters live outside the city creates problems with scheduling and impacts overtime. It’s common for the city’s firefighters to make $200,000 or more in overtime in a year. There were 86 employees in the fire department who made $400,000 or more in 2021. The city paid $244.9 million in overtime in 2021.
About 85% of Los Angeles firefighters live outside the city. The report found that of the 3,348 members of the department, 1,058 lived outside the city but within Los Angeles County. Another 1,247 firefighters lived in the adjacent counties of Orange, Ventura, Kern and San Bernardino. A further 412 lived in other counties in Southern California.
Some lived even further away. Seventeen lived in Central and Northern California and 115 lived in other states. While many of those 115 lived in either Utah, Arizona and Idaho, one firefighter lived in Florida. Another lived in Alaska.
The report said the city had the legal right to enforce a residency requirement. Some other large U.S. cities, such as Chicago, require firefighters to live within city limits before they can be hired.
The Los Angeles mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.