The front page of today’s New York Times included a familiar story to those following San Diego’s budget problems.

Fire departments around the nation are cutting jobs, closing firehouses and increasingly resorting to “rolling brownouts” in which they shut different fire companies on different days as the economic downturn forces many cities and towns to make deep cuts that are slowing their responses to fires and other emergencies.

The story highlighted San Diego’s brownouts because they were linked to the choking death of Bentley Do, a toddler staying with family in Mira Mesa, in July. Without the brownouts, firefighters say they could have arrived to help the toddler within two minutes. It took nine and a half.

The Times explains the tragedy surrounding Do’s case to show how cities are putting more pressure on firefighters in the wake of financial shortfalls across the country. In San Diego, Do’s death catalyzed the charge to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. Supporters say some of the additional money would restore funding to the Fire-Rescue Department.

The Times story also explained how Do’s death has affected his family.

Bentley, whose father, Nam Do, an American, was working in Vietnam as an architect, was just visiting San Diego with his mother, Mien Nguyen. Ms. Nguyen, who was six months pregnant, was here to take the oath of United States citizenship. She was sworn in the day after Bentley died, Brian Do, the uncle, said, but she fainted when she got her certificate and was taken to the hospital. Nam Do left his job in Vietnam to come here to grieve for his son, and goes to a temple every day, Brian Do said.

He said that the family had no plans to sue the city. “We’re not blaming the city or blaming the Fire Department,” he said, “but the reason I speak out is because I want them to do a better job for other people.”

To read the full New York Times story, click here. For more coverage on this issue, check out these earlier posts, too.


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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