One of the biggest gaps in San Diego's fire response coverage is finally on verge of being filled – with a temporary, modular fire station in Skyline Hills, the base for the city’s new Engine 51.
That'll mean firefighters and paramedic crews will show up much sooner than residents there and in surrounding communities have had to get used to waiting.
"Fire Station 32 and Fire Station 12, which are the nearest stations to this area, are very busy stations -- among the busiest in our city,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Javier Mainair. “They are often occupied when a call for service comes in here. And for them to come out this way is a long run for the other fire stations that cover it."
Officials say Station 51 is expected to be fully staffed and engine ready to roll on calls by Tuesday.
According to city-commissioned consulting studies,18 more temporary stations are needed to fill coverage gaps throughout San Diego -- many of them in older, “underserved” communities south of Interstate 8.
The Fire-Rescue department has found that two-man crews in small “quick strike” rigs are effective for only about 20 percent of the fire calls they respond to, and then have to give way to backup responders.
"Now that we have (Station 51) up temporarily, the hard work begins to find the funding to get a full station,” said Ken Malbrough, who chairs the Encanto Community Planning Council. “And it will happen -- I have faith in that."
While $1 million already has been earmarked for architectural and engineering design work on a permanent station, another $12 million will be needed to build the facility.
Odds are that funding for that project as well as three more in the vicinity would have to come from an “infrastructure” bond issue that city officials hope to take to the ballot in the November 2016 election cycle.
“We know where our vulnerabilities are – many of them are right here, in this general neighborhood,” said Marti Emerald, who chairs the city council’s Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee.
“Hopefully, within the next couple years, we’re going to have enough money to build a full-scale fire station here,” Emerald told community activists gathered for Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at Station 51.