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Richard Rider

SD fire department union boss willing to let people die, rather than implement emergency response reform?

I’ve been advocating for 2 man fire/emergency response teams since the tragic 2003 San Diego “Cedar” brush fire, when I first became interested in firefighting operational reforms. It’s simple — two 2-man teams properly stationed apart in one fire station’s “district” = shorter response times than one 4-man team.

Lives are saved.  Of that, there can be no doubt – and no one argues otherwise.

It’s great to see this idea finally gaining traction a decade later. But somehow this common sense reform was blocked – held hostage by the SFD labor union that demands more 4 man fire stations before it will allow the 2 man response setup to be implemented.  The problem we face today is labor union featherbedding — a time-honored goal for ANY union.

The SD FD union’s (like all unions) #1 priority is employing as many union members as possible — more “boots on the ground” (but only highly paid union boots). For firefighter union bosses, public safety is important, but constitutes a secondary consideration. Building and manning more 4 man fire stations is the top priority for our fire department union.

When push comes to shove, arguably SD FD union president Frank De Clercq is quite willing to let a few more San Diegans die each year rather than have the firefighters improve their response times with 2 man crews.  When this happens, mark my words – De Clercq will blame the deaths on the taxpayers for not paying for more 4 man fire stations (actually 13 man/person fire stations, when you consider the 24/7 manning requirement).

Sadly, no union has greater pull in city hall than our beloved firefighters — and no union cares less about our city. Indeed, most “city” firefighters and their families don’t even live in the city of San Diego — many don’t even live in San Diego COUNTY (commuting from further north).

Yet the coveted firefighter candidate endorsement carries enormous weight in city politics. Unions rule!