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Another San Diego neighborhood might soon have relief for lengthy emergency response times.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is planning to add a second two-person first-responder crew to the citywide fleet, he revealed in budget projections last week. The crew, which includes at least one paramedic, operates out of a pickup truck and allows for quicker responses to 911 calls in neighborhoods with a high risk for a delayed response.

City leaders had known about these problems for years, but failed to take definitive action to help these neighborhoods until a two-person crew came online in Encanto over the summer. The decision cut response times in the neighborhood in half, early results have showed, and cost the city roughly $600,000. That’s cheap compared with the $12 million it costs to build and staff a new fire station with a full four-person engine crew. The program is going through a test run now, but officials are so happy with the results they want to expand it and make it permanent.

“As I said from the beginning, it would have been very difficult for this program to fail,” Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Mainar said. “And the initial results certainly bear that out.”

Mainar didn’t know Faulconer was going to put an additional crew in his budget plans and there’s no decision for where the new crew will go. Currently, the Encanto crew operates on a half-day shift. Mainar said the new money could go toward making that crew 24 hours or adding another half-day crew in a different neighborhood.

The neighborhood surrounding Home Avenue in City Heights has the greatest risk for a delayed response in the city and plans for a fire station there have stalled. Point Loma is the next neighborhood on the list a city consultant recommended would benefit from a two-person crew instead of a new, full station. The additional crew – and the continued existence of the one in Encanto – isn’t a done deal. Faulconer has to formally present his plans when he releases his budget in the spring and City Council has to sign off.

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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