San Diego Fire-Rescue Department suffers workforce shortage due to COVID surge

Posted at 12:23 AM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 09:18:12-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The COVID surge is now hitting San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department.

The department told ABC 10News that as of Dec. 30, there were 93 firefighters, 10 lifeguards, and six others in isolation due to COVID-19.

"There is a real cost to COVID," said Jesse Conner, President of San Diego City Firefighters Local 145. "We're having to temporarily brownout units, and that is not a road we want to go down."

Conner said they've had to resort to overtime assignments due to the staffing shortage.

"We even went through mandatory assignments by keeping people in place saying I'm sorry you can't go home today," he said.

SDFD officials said they were forced to shut down five units in fire operations — Squad 55, Bomb Squad, Engine 201, Engine 40, and Engine 20.

However, the department said the temporary closures would have minimal impact on their ability to respond to emergencies.

"We just have to move around fire engines so that we ensure the coverage gaps are minimized," Conner said.

All city employees were required to be fully vaccinated or request an exemption by Dec. 1. However, employees have until Jan. 3 to come into compliance with the mandate.

Conner said at least 86% of the union is vaccinated. He said he supports getting the shot as a way to protect the workforce and the community.

"Anything that we can do as a city, as a workforce to get past COVID successful and put it behind us is a good thing," Conner said.

At this time, the lifeguard positions have been covered using lifeguards working overtime, so there are no operational impacts to lifeguard facilities. The same goes for the dispatch center.