Fire Department Brown-Outs Impact Some Neighorhoods More Than Others
San Diego’s fire chief says University City and Rancho Penasquitos face the most risk because of fire department cutbacks.
Fire and Rescue Chief Javier Mainar said those communities were underserved by the fire department before the department started idling engines to save money. Under the brownout plan up to eight out of 47 engines go unused each day.
Mainar said response times in those areas have now risen to alarming levels. While giving an update on the plan to a city council committee, Mainar was pressed by Councilwoman Marti Emerald to say how many engines he would need reactivated full-time to feel more comfortable.
“If I could get three I would put them in those communities where I’m really having a hard time now meeting response times,” he said.
“And those communities are?” asked Emerald.
“Issues in Rancho Penasquitos, University City, and I have concerns about Pacific Beach and Mira Mesa is also a concern,” Mainar responded.
Mainar said the cost of restoring three engines would be $4.2 million.
The Chief also gave the council committee a detailed account of a March incident that resulted in the death of a Golden Hill man in an apartment fire. Fire Chief Javiar Mainar said the engine that would have responded to the fire was not in service.
However, he said another engine was on the scene in about four and a half minutes, which meets national standards. He said the evidence suggests the victim wouldn’t have survived even if the original engine had been in service.
"It is a subject of much controversy," Mainar said. "Some people, despite the information that is shown there, draw different assumptions than I do about whether we could have saved the gentleman. But I tell you all firefighters, including myself, feel the pain that perhaps had we been better equipped the chances might have been greater."
Mainar says the case shows how difficult it is to measure the true impact of idling some fire engines.