More than 100 Los Angeles city firefighters live out of state and make commutes from as far as Florida, Texas, and Tennessee, Los Angeles Fire Department officials said.
The long commute times may pose challenges for the department, especially in the event of a large-scale emergency where out-of-state firefighters may have a difficult time getting to the city quickly, said LAFD spokeswoman Cheryl Getuiza.
The city currently employs 110 firefighters who live in other states, about 3% of the department’s 3,350 sworn members, Getuiza said.
The 110 city firefighters, according to the department, live in 16 states: Washington, Idaho, Utah, Tennessee, Montana, Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oregon, Georgia.
Most of the out-of-staters are tenured firefighters, which includes engineers, apparatus operators and captains, as well as two battalion chiefs, Getuiza said.
Although LAFD does recruit and hire firefighters who already live in other states, Getuiza said most of the 110 firefighters were hired first, then eventually moved elsewhere.
The department is considering a new policy that would require new firefighters to live within a certain distance from the city, Getuiza said. Tenured firefighters who already live out of state, she said, would be grandfathered into the possible policy, allowing them to remain in their homes.
Getuiza said the department does not track reasons for why their employees make such a drastic move. However, LAFD Capt. Christian Granucci, who commutes back-and-forth to Los Angeles, was quoted in a 2018 story, saying that he “moved to Texas … for the freedoms that it offers.”
The article said Granucci lived in Dripping Springs, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away from Los Angeles.
Granucci, who makes more than $200,000 a year, is famous for recording and sharing a video in which he called the city’s vaccination requirement for city workers “tyranny.” In the video, he said he and hundreds of other LAFD firefighters would fight the vaccine requirement. He is currently being investigated by the department’s Professional Standards Division for appearing to record the video while on duty and in department uniform.
For firefighters, or other first responders like police officers, to live outside the city or county they work in is not uncommon. For example, some firefighters who work in Los Angeles and Orange counties live in Inland Empire communities, such as Rancho Cucamonga.
A 2010 Orange County Register story on the topic showed that living just one county over can create long commutes for firefighters who must drive through about two hours of traffic just to get to their respective station.
That report also showed that some Orange County firefighters also lived out of state, calling places like Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Washington home.
Such out-of-state commutes require flights, trekking the more than 2,000 miles for some firefighters, particularly from places like the U.S. east coast or southern states.
So, how do firefighters manage their work shifts while make such lengthy commutes?
LAFD’s staffing model allows for firefighters to work 24-hour shifts and gives employees — from firefighters and paramedics all the way up to assistant chiefs — the latitude to work overtime shifts or trade shifts.
Using this model, the department’s members who live out of state often try to work multiple days straight, Getuiza said. This way, the out-of-state firefighters have more off-duty time to be at home.
Also, for safety reasons, some firefighters decide to rest between shifts at a fire station while off duty, Getuiza said.
Leaders from the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the union representing nearly all of LAFD’s sworn firefighters, did not respond to requests for comment.