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Questions Raised Over Fire Fighting Resources

Audio

Aired 2/17/11

The majority of emergency calls funneled to the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department are for medical situations. That has some politicians wondering whether fire fighting resources should be increased.

— If you’ve ever had to call the San Diego Fire Rescue Department, chances are you needed help with a medical emergency and not an actual fire. And that fact has some people questioning whether fire fighting resources need to be expanded.

A San Diego Fire Department vehicle parks in the Gaslamp Quarter. The city recently received a fire deployment study it had commissioned to look at the issues facing the fire department.
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Above: A San Diego Fire Department vehicle parks in the Gaslamp Quarter. The city recently received a fire deployment study it had commissioned to look at the issues facing the fire department.

There are some widely acknowledged facts about the city of San Diego’s fire department. First, about 80 percent of the calls the department responds to are for medical emergencies. Second, there aren’t enough fire stations to meet the city’s needs. A recently released report commissioned by the fire department shows San Diego could use 10 new stations, which could cost more than $70 million.

Councilman Carl DeMaio said given the facts San Diego may want to reevaluate its priorities.

“That’s why I’d like us to rethink how we provide the fire and emergency medical services with a greater emphasis on getting there quicker, and getting medical attention there quicker,” he said. “Rather than rolling the full fire truck we may want to rethink whether that’s cost effective.”

DeMaio represents Rancho Bernardo, which has some of the city’s slowest response times. But Fire Chief Javier Mainar said it’s not an either/or situation.

“If we could make all fires go away, all other types of emergencies, I would say that premise is correct; we can just add ambulance resources,” he said. “But the only thing an ambulance can do is handle a medical call. If you have a fire or hazardous materials incident, any of those other things, you require the services of a firefighter.”

Mainar said the new report shows San Diego has not kept up with the fire services it should have been providing over the decades and now some communities are under served.

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