Fire Truck
Fire Truck Engine 38. Photo via Alexander Nuyen

Nearly four years after a respected consultant issued recommendations for improving the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, few of the ideas have been carried out, according to a report to be delivered to the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee on Wednesday.

The study by Citygate Associates of Folsom in February 2011 has been treated by city officials as a blueprint for the future of the SDFRD.

A working group made up of City Council members David Alvarez and Marti Emerald, along with Chief Javier Mainar and others, developed a timeline for implementing the recommendations. The council adopted the working group plan that November.

According to the report going before the committee, most of the delays are the result of the city’s painstaking creation of a comprehensive, five-year plan to address a massive infrastructure backlog. The infrastructure plan took a few years to develop and encompassed not just the SDFRD but many other city departments.

Some work has also been slowed by litigation over a $120 million infrastructure bond that could have been issued in the middle of last year. The city won a pair of lawsuits but the plaintiff plans to appeal.

In the City Council’s adopted timeline, most of the plans set for completion three years ago have been finished. That’s not the case for subsequent years, the report shows.

Of the seven items set for two years ago, only one has been completed — the $2.6 million replacement of the fire station alerting system. A fire station under construction on the east side of Mission Valley is projected to be finished in July, and money for staffing the new facility is part of the budget plans for the next fiscal year.

However, the report says the city is still working on budgeting for a new fire station on Home Avenue, and planning for a station in Paradise Hills.

The report says none of the items in the timeline for the last fiscal year were completed, including funding to build and staff the Paradise Hills station and plan for a new location on College Avenue near San Diego State University.

The six projects for the current fiscal year are also pending, including planning for a new station in the Skyline neighborhood.

Most of the funds for the new stations and equipment are part of the five-year infrastructure plan.

The Citygate report was issued at a time when San Diego officials were working to get out from under the effects of the recession. Staffing was reduced at some stations on a rotating basis, and response times in some areas lagged below industry standards.

The consultants suggested San Diego build numerous new fire stations and, in the meantime, develop a system of fast response teams that could beat regular fire trucks to an emergency scene.

In a pilot program in Encanto, one of the slower areas, the new teams have cut response times by an average of two minutes, the report says. On about 30 percent of the calls, they have been able to cancel the rest of the firefighters.

— City News Service