Season 4, Episode 2
“LAFD: everybody knows those four letters, but when you think about 471 miles; it's two airports (Van Nuys and LAX). They've got the Port of Los Angeles--so we have fireboats; then they have one of the busiest freeway systems in the nation. You’re hard pressed to find anywhere on earth, outside New York, serving up to 7 million people… You have 1,000 people to support that many residents and Angelinos; that's pretty incredible. And I'm proud that they're so good at doing it.”
Matt talks to Liz Lin, President of the LAFD Foundation, an organization whose mission is to supplement the fire department’s budget by providing first responders with essential equipment, new technology, and educational resources that would otherwise go unfunded.
The duo discusses the growing challenges faced by the LAFD as a result of the pandemic and the increase of wildfires in recent years; things people can do to better prepare themselves and their homes from fire danger, how robots are helping fight fires, and how learning all the acronyms the FD uses is like learning a foreign language. And, Matt learns a very special lesson: that firemen are so much more than just shirtless calendar eye candy.
What's the coolest thing that you've learned about the fire department since you've been in charge of the foundation,
I always have so much pride because no one really knows what they do. Everybody knows those four letters, but they don't know--when you think about 471 miles, it's two airports because they've got Van Nuys and they've got LAX; they've got the Port of Los Angeles, so we have fireboats; then they have one of the busiest freeway systems in the nation. And it's hard pressed to think that outside New York to see anybody have--serving 4 million people, maybe up to 7 million when everybody's at working.
So, if you think about, you have a thousand people to support that many residents and Angelenos; that's pretty incredible. And I'm proud that they're so good at doing it.
Wait. There's only a thousand firefighters in the entire city of LA?
On duty at any given time.
Wow. That's not very many.
Wow. That is really impressive.
Yeah. 106 stations, a thousand firefighters on duty at any time.
What's the most surprising thing that you learn that you think our listener should know
What doesn't get funded. And I'm not saying that as a person coming out, trying to fundraise for it. When I came into this job and the chief would call me and say, “Hey, Liz, we have this need.” And I'd say, “Really, the city doesn't pay for that? Or really how did that miss the budgeting process?” And I'm still learning to this day. I still get those phone calls and I'm like, “What? How are you guys surviving without this?” I understand what people are in a little bit of disbelief, but my job is to get it done and we try to raise as much money to make a difference with.
Yeah, I think if nothing else that is the most surprising things that I've learned on the job that I didn't even know is that really all of these departments are not funded enough period.
And so the importance of foundations like yours is just huge. And so again, if anybody's listening to this, who's like, oh, the city pays for the fire or they paid for the police or the pace or whatever it is, they don't pay for all of it.
And that's why we're so important. When everybody talks about, cause I get this a lot too, from the people who don't really want to support the LAFD or support a city foundation because the city should be paying for it..
But my answer to that too, is here's a couple of things you didn't know. They're going to shock you. Firefighters are 14 times more likely to die of cancer than the average person. And then the second statistic I want to share with you is that more firefighters died by suicide than in the line of duty, because in the old days, the firefighters compartmentalized and they kept everything in.
And so, you see higher incidences of addiction, higher abuse, domestic violence. You see all of that because they don't have any, they didn't have any way to get it out before now. We've got some mental health and behavioral health that we try to really push. But, when people say firefighters getting paid too much, I say, “at what cost and or would you be okay with paying them more because they know that they're going to die sooner, chances are, or that they're going to have more severe long-term PTSD or trauma or anxiety.”