In the last two weeks, San Diego firefighters union president Frank De Clercq has come out swinging against the rotating closures of fire crews at stations, known as “brownouts,” around the city.

His comments, in the wake of a fire-related death in an area served by a shuttered crew, starkly contrast the position the union took in December when shutting down the fire engines was part of the resolution to the city’s $179 million budget gap. Then the union’s position boiled down to: We don’t like it, but we’ll take it.

Now it’s unclear if the union is willing to take it anymore.

In an interview, De Clercq would not say if the union was going to fight to restore the $11.5 million in fire funding when the city’s budget negotiations — with a new $30 million deficit — begin next month.

De Clercq also wouldn’t blame the aforementioned March 19 death of a Golden Hill man on the brownouts. But he said that incident highlights the negative effects of the closures.

“You gotta have proof that there’s delays, and I think we’re seeing it now,” De Clercq said.

Should the fire union take a tougher stance against the brownouts, it would mirror positions held by union counterparts in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Neither has shied away from the contention that browned out stations means dead citizens or firefighters.


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

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