San Diego May Charge for False Alarm Calls

SAN DIEGO --

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department may soon charge steep fees as a penalty for repeated false alarm calls.

Chief Javier Mainar of San Diego Fire-Rescue said because of false alarm calls, firefighters will often respond to certain addresses dozens of times in a single year though there is no emergency.

"Those false signals they almost in all cases summon a fire engine and for that period of time that a fire engine is responding to a false call, it is not available to go to other incidents, said Mainar.

According to San Diego Fire-Rescue, on average, each alarm requires the attention of a staffed engine and crew. The average response time takes almost 19 minutes. That amounts to $274 in wasted money and time.

Each year, more than 6,200 false alarms calls used almost 2,000 hours of effort. That's the equivalent of more than $540,000 annually.

Most of the false alarm call offenders are large businesses.

San Diego Fire-Rescue said the first and second calls would be warnings. After the first two false alarm calls, fees would be imposed. Those fees are about $195 for the third false alarm, $305 for the fourth, $525 for the fifth and $2,285 for all false alarm calls after that.

However, those fees are much less than the fees the San Diego Police Department has been charging for decades.

"The police department has had a system in place for 30 years," said Mainar. "We are late to the game getting there."

The San Diego City Council is scheduled to vote on the false alarm fees next month when they finalize next year's budget.

If approved, the fees may begin December 1.

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