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Councilman urges mayor to end fire station ‘brownouts’

Councilman Tony Young sent a memo to Mayor Jerry Sanders Thursday, asking him to immediately end emergency services cuts that may have played a role in the death of a toddler who choked on a gumball.

Young said he was “deeply disturbed” about comments attributed to San Diego fire officials that fire engine “brownouts” may have contributed to Tuesday night’s death of 2-year-old Bentley Do at his Mira Mesa home.

“Having read these statements, I cannot in good conscience stand by and not ask you to end the `brownouts’ in the San Diego Fire Department immediately,” Young wrote.

San Diego’s “brownout” program, which leaves fire engines companies in certain parts of the city idle on a rotating basis, was instituted by Sanders last winter due to budget constraints. The program saves the city about $11.5 million.

Although there is a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department station a block away from the Do home, its engine personnel were filling in for another Mira Mesa station, whose crew was unavailable because of the brownouts.’'

Because of the `"brownouts,” an engine had to be sent from the South Bay. It arrived 9 1/2 minutes after the family’s 911 call, well beyond the 5-minute national standard response time.

Young urged the mayor to consider using general fund reserves, a 0.5 percent to 1 percent reduction in all non-public safety department budgets or cuts to services and supplies to restore funding for the SDFRD.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald has also been vocal in calling for an end to the fire engine “brownouts.” So far, she has been unable to identify funding.