NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Team 10 Investigates: San Diego Fire-Rescue Department responses increase by thousands

Posted at 7:06 AM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 21:17:29-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) -- If there’s a dangerous situation unfolding in San Diego the odds are crews with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department are on-scene.

Team 10 discovered the number of responses crews make across the City of San Diego are up by tens of thousands from just a few years ago.

"What used to be a busy station, looking at nine to 10 calls a day, now that's an average station,” said Chris Webber assistant chief over emergency operations. “A busy station is 15, 17, or more calls in a day.”

Webber’s been with the department for more than two decades.

"The things that have changed, the complexity of the calls the quantity of calls and the technical expertise that it takes to manage the calls,” he said.

With San Diego's booming downtown area, Team 10 wanted to know just how busy emergency crews are.

Team 10 looked at the number of San Diego Fire-Rescue department's responses dating back to 2014.
Across the city, responses are up by thousands.

In 2014 the numbers showed 153,110 responses across the city. In 2018 that number was up to 175,147. Total responses are down from 2017, but still show a significant increase from just a few years ago.

According to the numbers, the stations with the most responses are in the downtown, Lincoln Park and Valencia Park areas. Although, fire crew members say you can’t discount the number of responses made in the South Bay and Center City areas.

“EMS calls are the biggest load,” Webber said. “We're running 82 to 85 percent of the calls are EMS."

Here's the proof, station four which serves the East Village and its surrounding areas had more than 6,000 responses for medical calls last year.

That's more than 90 percent of their total responses.

Team 10 spent a day following downtown crews to calls.

10News caught the station four crew heading to three of those calls. They were all medical related

"Along with the increased call volume and increased services that we provide, that's all got to be supported by training and practice and classes and equipment," Webber said.

Officials said when analyzing the department and the calls they respond to you can't just look at volume.

It's also hard to specify an exact reason why response numbers go up and down each year. Webber said there are many reasons, such as population growth, additional stations, and people’s increased ability to call 9-1-1 for help.

10News spoke with a firefighter who said the reliance on 9-1-1 has driven up responses along with changes to the 9-1-1 triage system.

10News as asked Webber if there's anything he worries about for his crews.

"I worry about the health and well-being of our people," he said. "It was a long time ago when I rode on a fire engine, and I know they are working a lot harder than I did and are up against much more complex things.”

On any given day the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is protecting around 1.5 to 2 million people.