SAN DIEGO --
Beginning next weekend, it may take several extra minutes to get a fire engine to your home in the event of a fire because the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is planning a "brown-out."
As many as eight fire stations will have their engines out of service each month as part of the brown-out plan, which is aimed at saving about $11.5 million -- the SDFRD's share of the city budget shortfall of $179 million for the next fiscal year.
No stations will close, but 13 of them will be trimmed back from current staffing -- three until further notice and 10 others alternating each month.
Taking fire engines offline will mean budgetary savings, but some said it will be at a cost of response time.
"You know, I am worried," said SDFRD Fire Chief Javier Mainar.
Maintain firefighting capabilities without jeopardizing public safety is tough for Mainar, so the brown-outs will be rolled out. There will be fewer engines and their crews, but fire trucks won't be touched. Engines have a hose and helps in putting out fires, while a truck has a ladder, tools and can handle 97 percent of all calls. Fire trucks will stay in operation at every firehouse.
"No firefighters are being laid off, no stations are being closed. The savings come from not having to hire firefighters back on overtime to fill in for sick leave, vacations, injury leave, those kinds of things.
But depending on a station farther away means longer response times.
"We don't meet national standards of getting to a home in 5 minutes now. Ninety percent are at 8 minutes. Taking eight engines out will impact that even greater," said Frank DeClerq, president of the San Diego City firefighters union.
For firefighters, it will be a heavier workload with less overtime, so take-home pay gets cut. Those who depend on them, the residents of San Diego, are not thrilled with the decision.
"Firehouse is essential service. How do you know when you're going to need them? Rancho Bernardo seems so far away, so no, I'm not for that. Cut back somewhere else," said Rancho Penasquitos resident Richard Hayashi.
"We are so close to Penasquitos Canyon, could have fire. It's a cul-de-sac, dead end, I think we should have fire station readily available in this area," said Rancho Penasquitos resident Birgit Neukirch.
The brown-out plan goes into effect next weekend and will go until it is no longer needed.
Learn more about the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department's "brown-out" plan by visiting the following links:
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