December fire academy recruits 9 ambulance operators to relieve understaffed crews, more hires expected, Long Beach chief says

2014 file photo of a LA County fire engine

CJ Dablo | Signal Tribune

2014 file photo of a LA County fire engine

Long Beach Fire Department Chief Xavier Espino updated the Long Beach City Council via a memo on Dec. 24 about the status of overworked Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance crews. He said that an academy hosted on Dec. 2 resulted in nine hires, who reported for duty on Dec. 19–– a day after the academy came to a close.

“We hired nine following our December academy and we anticipate 15 other hires in January,” LBFD Spokesperson Jake Heflin said.

Espino noted that the new additions will help relieve some of the overtime pressure crews of BLS 12 and BLS 13 were experiencing in mid October and November.

[See related story: Long Beach fire chief says staff shortages is causing overtime strain on ambulance crews]

Currently, the department has 12 full-time ambulance-operator vacancies and 12 non-career ambulance operator vacancies. Espino said the LBFD is aiming to conduct more academies in January and April to hire 44 new ambulance operators.

An internal review of the LBFD’s hiring process improved ambulance-crew academies by decreasing their length from three weeks to two and reducing the hiring process from six weeks to three weeks by streamlining physical exams and background checks.

As previously reported in the Signal Tribune, the strain on overworked BLS ambulance crews did not impact emergency response time, Deputy Fire Chief Jim Rexwinkle said.

The next ambulance academy will take place from Jan. 13 through Jan. 24 and will train at least 15 individuals, according to the memo.