A 2-year-old Mira Mesa boy choked to death yesterday in an area where fire crews were spread thin because of budget cut-driven, rotating closures of fire crews known as “brownouts.”

A fire department spokesman said he was still gathering information about the incident, including how long it took the department to respond and whether the brownout was a factor in the child’s death.

“That’s part of what we’re trying to confirm,” fire spokesman Maurice Luque said. “There is a potential that it was.”

Three fire crews were unable to respond when the call about the choking incident came in, Luque said. One crew was browned out, another was responding to a call in Nestor and a third was on a separate medical call.

“Not to downplay this tragic situation, but the mayor, the fire chief and everyone else was talking about the impacts to public safety of these brownouts,” Luque said. “We’ve been very much open about that unfortunate potential.”

In December, the city closed a $179 million budget deficit in part by approving the temporary shuttering of fire crews at stations around the city. The brownouts saved the city $11.5 million.

San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar said he was going to a briefing with Mayor Jerry Sanders this morning. A press conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

Update: The Fire Department originally said the child was three years old.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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