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A top Fire-Rescue official weighed in Tuesday to try and explain why the neighborhoods most at risk for a delayed emergency response happen to be some of the poorest and brownest parts of the city.

On KPBS radio, I asked Assistant Fire Chief Brian Fennessy why five neighborhoods within 9 ½ miles south and east of downtown had the greatest risk of crews arriving after their goal time. He said those neighborhoods – Home Avenue in City Heights, Paradise Hills, College Area, Skyline and Encanto – had dense populations.

But downtown has as much or more density.

Fennessy countered that there might be a larger elderly population in the area, lots of highways intersecting the communities, as well as lots of calls.

Fennessy said he doesn’t believe institutional racism or neglect of some of the city’s more impoverished areas plays a role:

 To be honest, I don’t see that as a role at all. That would be speculative for I believe anybody to think that. I can tell you without question that in all the meetings I attend with city staff, the mayor’s staff, council staff, not once has that ever been raised as an issue or concern or even a sidebar conversation.

I plan to take a deeper dive into reasons why the delayed response risk is so high in these neighborhoods, but I want to keep the conversation going.

Here’s a link to the full interview with myself, Fennessy and Cherish Lomeli, a woman who waited more than 11 minutes for first responders to reach her Encanto home during an emergency.

Fennessy and I also appeared on KPBS television to elaborate on the investigation’s findings.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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