Story by Caleb Lunetta, The San Diego Union-Tribune

One of San Diego’s oldest, and busiest, fire stations got a little bit more help this week after city officials announced an additional engine will be stationed at Fire Station No. 4 in East Village. Station No. 4, located on 8th Avenue and J Street, has only had a single engine in recent years that responds to approximately 25 calls every day, according to Fire Department officials. The new fire truck, Engine 80, will serve as a “peak-hour engine” from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., providing relief to some of the crew working long hours.

“Station 4 consistently ranks in the top five busiest stations in the nation with the majority of those calls being medical calls,” said Fire-Rescue Department Chief Colin Stowell. “Adding Engine 80 should help the crew at Station No. 4 with that tremendous burden and reduce the frequency of engine companies from neighboring districts having to respond to calls in East Village for assistance.”

The engine will also help lessen the burden on other stations. Because of Station No. 4’s high call volume, units from other districts and neighborhoods are often called in to respond to concurrent incidents, officials said. By staffing this additional unit, those crews from other neighborhoods can remain available.

“The hours correspond to the busiest time of the day for emergency incidents when extra help is most needed,” said Mónica Muñoz, a spokesperson for the Fire Department. “Part of the pilot program will evaluate the impacts and whether a 24-hour unit is needed, however, economics is a factor and we are utilizing our funding in the most efficient manner possible.”

While the Station No. 4 service area is the smallest district in the city of San Diego, it remains one of the busiest, with approximately 6,000 emergency incidents per year, according to the city’s website. Station No. 4 previously had two engines that were used to assist on all calls, said Muñoz. However, when Station No. 2 was built at Cedar Street and Pacific Highway, the Fire Department moved the heavy rescue apparatus to the new station for easier access — primarily because railroad tracks in the area meant higher chances the heavy rescue rig could get caught waiting for a train while assigned to an emergency call.

Since then, the second crew’s space at Station No. 4 has remained empty and a single engine has provided service to the city’s third-busiest fire district, Muñoz said. The addition of Engine 80 is part of a year-long pilot program that was recommended by a city study in 2017 that suggested bringing in more of the city’s reserve fire engines that are ready to be put into service in case one of the front-line engines has mechanical or other problems. The idea behind the recommendation was to bring in trucks to provide more resources during the busiest times of the day in the most efficient way possible, fire officials said.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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