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In San Francisco, the idea of shutting down city fire crews sparked more than five years of bitter debate, including a referendum that tried to block the cuts from happening again.

With the proposal coming back there, the city firefighter’s union has organized a campaign. Asked about the cuts, the union doesn’t mince words.

“What I say to politicians is, ‘Are you going to take responsibility for the death of citizens or firefighters?’” union head John Hanley said in an interview.

Union leaders in Los Angeles have taken a similar cuts-mean-death stance when the city implemented shutdowns this year.

But San Diego’s fire union isn’t fighting, even though a similar proposal was defeated last year.

“We’re just basically resigned ourselves to the fact that there is no money,” said Alan Arrollado, secretary-treasurer of the fire union.

Everyone agrees the cuts will reduce coverage — from the union to Fire Chief Javier Mainar to Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“There will be service impacts,” Sanders told the council this morning. “I want to be clear about that.”

The fire cuts are called “rolling brownouts” and are projected to save the city $11.5 million toward its $200 million deficit. As the still-sketchy details emerge, the fire department is targeting the 13 stations where multiple units — both fire ladder trucks and engines — are housed.

Mainar has not finalized plans, but said in this morning’s City Council meeting that he plans to rotate the closure of eight units across those 13 stations. Mainar said he expected the more versatile ladder trucks, which do not have extinguishing power that fire engines do, to remain in service at those stations during brownouts.

The firefighters on the browned out units would serve as a relief crew for other units around the city, saving the department from having to pay overtime to other firefighters.


Rob Davis

Rob Davis was formerly a senior reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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