Since July, FilmL.A. Production Coordinators have been taking advantage of a new on-the-job training opportunity organized by the Los Angeles City Fire Department.
Initially conceived by Captain Fred Fowlks of the Los Angeles Fire Department Film Unit, the Fire Safety Ride Along program is increasing communication among permit coordinators and the LAFD and strengthening safety oversight measures built into the permit process.
“We felt it was important for FilmL.A. Production Coordinators to gain a broader perspective and see the practical effect of permit decisions on fire safety,” said Capt. Fowlks. “We also wanted them to gain insight into our criteria for assigning Fire Safety Officers, which you can really only get from being on set.”
The half-day field training sessions pair FilmL.A. Production Coordinators with LAFD Film Unit Inspectors as they drive to area film sets, review Spot Check documentation and provide on-the-spot fire safety education to crew members as needed.
When conditions warrant, Spot Checks are performed in lieu of assigning dedicated Fire Safety Officers to supervise filming at any given location. Because the LAFD’s Film Unit employs only three full-time inspectors, it is impossible to visit all of the locations approved for Spot Checks on any given day.
Instead, Spot Checks are administered at random locations, with an emphasis on popularly-filmed areas and properties that carry elevated fire risk, such as downtown lofts, converted warehouses and private homes located within designated Mountain Fire Zones. The end result of a Fire Safety Ride Along is an educated FilmL.A. Production Coordinator who can do more than consult a fire safety zone map when a judgment call is needed.
“Having the opportunity to see the production through the eyes of a Fire Safety Officer helps us better counsel production companies about their requested filming activities,” said FilmL.A. Operations Manager Jennifer Morelos, who coordinated the program for FilmL.A.
“When our coordinators know to ask the right kinds of questions up front,” Morelos added, “it helps the LAFD and speeds up negotiation over what can and cannot be included on any given permit.”