Image: trueStatement: “San Diego already has the lowest firefighter to population ratio of any major metropolitan city in California,” Frank De Clercq, president of the San Diego firefighters union, said Aug. 5 at a press conference supporting a half-cent sales tax increase.

Determination: True

Analysis: For years, some firefighters, researchers and residents have called for San Diego to build its firefighting arsenal. Now, the city’s mayor is forecasting even fewer firefighters.

If the city faces a more than $70 million budget shortfall next year, Mayor Jerry Sanders has promised to cut the number of firefighters and police officers. That focus on public safety is part of the campaign to increase the city’s sales tax by a half cent.

At a press conference alongside Sanders and other sales tax supporters, De Clercq tried to put those potential cuts in a comparative light. Even before the cuts, he said, San Diego has fewer firefighters per resident than the state’s largest cities.

In an interview, De Clercq said he was comparing a small sect of the state’s largest cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco — which each have more than 800,000 residents.

In fact, San Diego has fewer firefighters per capita than each of those cities. And when you look at the state’s 15 most populous cities, San Diego ranks 10th in firefighters per capita.

The California Emergency Management Agency tracks the firefighting workforce across the state to keep a pulse on each agency’s ability to share resources for large disasters. For that reason, the tally represents every sworn firefighter up to a city’s fire chief.

Using CalEMA’s data and state population estimates, we ranked how many firefighters each of the state’s 15 largest cities has per 100,000 residents. Here’s the data:

Compared to the most populous cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose — San Diego has fewer firefighters per capita. Of the top 15 most populous cities, only smaller municipalities — Freemont, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Bakersfield and Chula Vista — have a lower ratio.

We’ve call De Clercq’s statement true since his comparison among the state’s major cities is accurate.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to What claim should we explore next?


Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.