Councilmember proposes fire station bond measure

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Not long ago, a consulting firm "City Gate," said San Diego was the weak link when it comes to fire protection in the region because of a shortage of fire stations.

Councilmember Marti Emerald said it’s time to stop talking about fire protection and do something.

Emerald came to the council right after two historic fires, in 2003 and 2007 that claimed more than 30 lives and more than 5,000 homes and buildings.

Public safety was her number one priority.

Emerald said this is not something that private industry can do and we can’t do it individually. She’s proposing a $200 million bond issue to get 18 fire stations built over a 10-year period.

"We have to be aggressive. We have to build out our fire rescue department to meet our twenty-first century needs," she said.

The recession prevented the city from acting on city gate’s recommendation.

In the meantime, eight fire stations on a daily basis were understaffed. Four years ago, a Golden Hill man died in a house fire when an engine with water had to be called in from a distant fire station.

A 2-year-old boy, whose home in Mira Mesa was a block from a fire station, choked to death on a gumball before help could arrive from the South Bay.

"Without this option, it’s going to be the same old story of people fleeing fires, people’s lives lost necessarily because our crews couldn’t get there on time," Emerald said.

We no longer have these fire station brownouts, but response times higher beyond what they should be.

"City Gate said if you build these 19 fire stations in this critically important order, you can cut enough time off that we’re within one minute of that national standard," Emerald said.

That national standard is 7.5 minutes from a 911 call to arriving on scene. We miss that deadline every day.

"If you want greater fire and safety protection in the city of San Diego here is your opportunity," Emerald said.

"The fires are already burning, San Diego is always in fire season we can’t escape that, but we can prepare for it," she added.

The bond issue would build 18 fire stations. Another $2.2 million, per station, per year would cover staffing.

"We’re not setting aside tens of millions of dollars from the general fund for fire stations. We’ve got a funding stream to do that so there’s money left in the general fund to cover this expense," Emerald said.

The value of an average home is about $500,000. The bond issue would tack on $25 a year to your property tax.

"We need this help. We need a funding stream," Emerald said.

There are other tax issues on the ballot, but only one public safety issue.

This bond issue requires no borrowing and the money can only be spent on fire stations.

Categories: Local San Diego News