Fire station ‘brown out’ plan approved


The number of fire engine companies at 13 of San Diego’s 47 fire stations — including the one at Eastgate Mall and Genessee Avenue — will be reduced on a rotating basis starting next week, as part of budget cuts recently adopted by the City Council.

No fire stations will be closed as a result of the so-called “rolling brown-outs,” but fire stations with multiple crews will be reduced to a single crew and their engines will be idled, according to a five-page plan released by the city.

Up to eight fire engines will be taken out of operation each day. The firefighters that typically staff those engines will be used to fill in for others who are absent from duty.

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner told the La Jolla Town Council last week that the plan could affect La Jolla firefighters who may have to shift to backup at Station 35 in University City.

The plan, which takes effect Feb. 6, will save the city about $11.5 million due to a reduction in overtime.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald said the plan could mean it will take longer for first responders to arrive at an emergency.

“These engine closures represent an additional 13 percent reduction in available fire crews and equipment,” Emerald said in a statement. “We are patching the budget deficit by cutting public safety services. We should all be concerned about this.”

According to Emerald, 22 fire stations in San Diego already fall short of a national standard for response times.

The brown-outs were included in Mayor Jerry Sanders’ recent plan to close a $179 million budget shortfall. The City Council approved the budget cuts in December.

The impacted San Diego Fire-Rescue Department stations include Station 21 in Pacific each, Station 35 in University city, Station 40 in Rancho Penasquitos and Station 44 in Mira Mesa as well as others across the city.