City Councilman Kevin Faulconer called Monday for a new analysis of firefighter staffing that would explain how often fire stations are partially staffed under budget cuts.

Since February, the city has idled up to eight fire engines to save $11.5 million annually in overtime costs. That move slowed response times, especially in northern neighborhoods, and became a force behind increasing the city’s sales tax after the death of a 2-year-old in Mira Mesa.

Faulconer opposes increasing the sales tax, and his memo mirrors a similar effort by Councilman Carl DeMaio to fight it at City Hall. If the city restored fire engines before the election, sales tax supporters could lose some of the summer’s momentum.

In his memo, Faulconer questioned whether more fire engines could be put back into service for a lower cost than previous estimates. Fire Chief Javier Mainar has pinned the cost of each engine company at $1.4 million annually.

Faulconer said the Fire-Rescue Department could possibly bring back some fire engines by paying one or two firefighters overtime. He said other firefighters to round out the partial engine company are now being dispersed as extras throughout the city. Faulconer asked to know how often that happens and how much it would cost to fully staff the partial crews.

Council members have previously suggested bringing back some of the fire engines by using reserve funds or politicians’ office budgets. I asked Faulconer spokesman Tony Manolatos where the city could spare the money for more firefighters’ overtime.

“First we need to see how much money we’re talking about,” Manolatos wrote in an email. “We believe the City can get some of these engines back online with a relatively minor investment.”

You can find a copy of the full memo here.


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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