San Diego Fire Department issues ’emergency shutdown’ amid COVID-19 shortages – NBC 7 San Diego
San Diego Fire Chief Says He’s Never Seen His Fire Department So Thin; more than 13% of the city’s firefighters are now isolated because of COVID-19, triggering so-called “power cuts” at fire stations across the city.
When an emergency brownout is activated, the San Diego Fire Department limits stations with two companies to one on a rotating basis, according to SDFD.
While no stations are closed under the plan, which went into effect on January 3, three specialized units will be inactive – a two-person team patrolling Gaslamp on Friday and Saturday night, a similar engine covering the south. -est of San Diego, and the Bomb Squad.
Firefighters with engines off will work in place of other firefighters to fill in the gaps in the department.
SDFD chief Colin Stowell said only stations with double companies would experience a drop in tension, but the fire chief and union say this still puts firefighters and the public in a precarious situation.
“It’s unprecedented for sure,” Stowell said in a remote video interview Monday afternoon about the department’s shrinking workforce.
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As of Monday, 131 San Diego city firefighters are in isolation – 110 have tested positive for COVID-19, with 20 tests still pending. This is a big blow to a service that has around 960 firefighters in total.
Stowell says 86% of San Diego firefighters are fully immunized. 108 firefighters are currently unvaccinated.
“We just don’t have enough healthy enough bodies to work,” Stowell said.
Stowell says the department will systematically shut down three specialized units and three engines every day. These engines are at Station 40 in Rancho Penasquitos, Station 11 in Golden Hill, and Station 20 in Midway.
On Monday, the department also had to shut down Engine 21 at Pacific Beach.
A draft memo sent to NBC 7 from sources within the fire department describes a plan that allows up to 7 engines to fail each day, rotating between those 10 stations across town.
“There have to be two units out of this fire station so that we can even consider shutting down that unit,” Stowell said. “So that way we don’t leave any community completely unprotected. “
But there is still a lot of room for concern.
“There’s no good option when it comes to reducing the emergency voltage of a unit,” said Jesse Conner, president of San Diego City Fire Department Local 145.
Conner says that just because one station has a double company does not mean that the two companies have the exact same equipment, which means that one team may need to rely on another station to be able to pump water. water or use a ladder.
“It can create gaps in coverage if we have to cut down any unit in the city as a matter of urgency,” says Conner.
And, the workforce that is considered healthy enough to work is already overworked.
“There’s a certain level of frustration,” says Conner. “A level of exhaustion, and we have a few people who are at their wit’s end.”
Stowell says 47 firefighters working Monday were supposed to have a day off. If it had not been for the voltage drop, that number would have jumped to around 80 firefighters. It’s a situation that Stowell says is just not sustainable.
When asked what worries him the most about brownouts, Stowell replied, “Not knowing how long we’re going to be in this.”