With groundbreaking just a few days away for a temporary fire station designed to reduce response times in San Diego’s Skyline neighborhood, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole and a firefighter union leader Wednesday called for more provisional facilities in the city.
Encanto is a neighborhood that could use such a station, according to Cole and Alan Arrollado, the firefighter’s union president.
Their comments came after San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Javier Mainar delivered an annual report, to the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, on progress made in implementing recommendations of a consultant that were issued four years ago.
While many of the tasks slated for the first year have been completed, the ones in more recent years have seen some progress but have not been finished — including plans to build several new fire stations, according to Mainar’s report.
For the most part, station construction has been slowed as city officials came to grips with a massive backlog of infrastructure projects. A five-year plan to address the problem was just issued last week.
The chief hailed the results of the first six months of a pilot program in which a “fast response squad” works out of Encanto, one of the areas with slower response times. He said the times have been reduced by a couple of minutes on most calls, and that on one-third of the runs, the teams have been able to cancel other firefighters.
Arrollado said he has worked at several temporary stations in his career.
“It is a great way to get service into a community that is in need of service without the challenge of building a $10-$20 million permanent fire station,” Arrollado said.
“These stations can come online and get service up and running … especially in some of the busier parts of town where engine companies are running upwards of 20 calls in a 24-hour period, these services are greatly needed,” Arrollado said. “Building a permanent fire station should not be an obstacle to providing the service.”
He and Cole pointed out that in two-thirds of the calls the fast response squad answered, it needed help from a full fire engine. The councilwoman said she will continue to advocate for a full station in Encanto.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for the Skyline station Monday, and it could be ready to occupy in April, according to Mainar.
The consultant, Citygate Associates of Folsom, issued its recommendations in February 2011 and they’ve since been treated by city officials as a blueprint for the future of the SDFRD.
The suggestions came out 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 the fast response squad system that could beat regular fire trucks to an emergency scene.
A working group made up of City Council members David Alvarez and Marti Emerald, along with Mainar and others, developed a timeline for implementing the recommendations. The council adopted the working group plan that November.
Not all of the fire stations planned for the city have been delayed. One of those called for in the Citygate report, 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.
Construction of other fire stations that aren’t called for by Citygate have been fully or mostly funded through other means, including by developers. Mainar said those are by the downtown waterfront, Black Mountain Ranch and Ocean View Hills.
— City News Service
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