San Diego firefighters and lifeguards at odds over who gets the call for help

Posted at 7:47 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 12:23:46-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - It's been a months-long dispatch debate, fueled in part by the death of a toddler found floating face down in a Mission Bay pond.

The head of the lifeguard's union Ed Harris told 10news by phone in that emergency help didn't get there when it should.

“We are still delayed to water emergencies and currently the Fire Chief changed the way we do dispatch.”

“To politicize a family's personal tragedy by alleging that there was a delayed response having to do with a 911 call transfer was disgraceful.”

That was San Diego's fire chief Brian Fennessy two weeks ago.

On Wednesday he said this regarding Harris’s comments: “He's absolutely wrong and that the data and computer-aided dispatch data would demonstrate that to be completely false.” 

The chief presented the results of an operations study commissioned a year ago to City Council, he says the only thing that changed in dispatch for lifeguards is that calls for 'inland' water rescue first go to San Diego Fire, lifeguards are unable to handle the massive numbers of calls that come in during flooding.

“Now they go from police dispatch, to fire dispatch, to lifeguard dispatch before we can make a radio call that is delaying our ability to get to water emergencies,” said Harris.

Harris says with fewer fires for firefighters to fight, he believes the Fennessy is trying to secure work.

This is all about somebody making a political statement or using a political issue to draw attention to something that's just not there, it’s ridiculous,” said Fennessy.