SAN DIEGO - Not all residents of San Diego and surrounding communities realize that the local fire department is made up of volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters don't get paid; they have normal everyday jobs to care for their families and when there is an emergency they must leave their families and jobs.
However, if you were to pay attention theses volunteers protect the community when need be. They don't ask questions, they just do. They are train regularly and have weekly meetings.
With recent events in the small town, San Diego Fire Chief Juan Soliz realized that the city needed to have firefighters at the station more, especially on the weekends.
This realization didn't come without some planning. Soliz knows that not all firefighters can respond to a fire all the time, but there had been a few weekends that no firefighters were close enough to the area to respond to a fire or accident.
He approached the San Diego City Council with an idea. A way to get the city and residents some full-time coverage especially on the weekends.
The council approved his idea during a May meeting.
"I'm glad that the city council passed the stipend. It was hard to get members on weekend. A small stipend will encourage members to be available and stationed," Soliz said.
So on Friday, May 17, two of the department's firefighters began their first shift with a $40 a day stipend.
That weekend and every weekend from now on would have "on-duty" personnel from Friday evening through Sunday evening.
Every weekend, two firefighters will “man” the station for a full 48 hours. Crew will help mitigate any emergency calls that arise. There would also be some "off-duty" firefighters to assist in the emergency.
This will give other firefighters time to spend with their families without the potential of having to leave to respond to an emergency.
"What does this mean for the community. It increases response time and increases an initial attack and get mutual aid sooner, if needed," Soliz said. "Right now, our response time average is 10 minutes. Having firefighters at the station, ready to go should reduce response time."
Reducing response time is important for Soliz and his firefighters. It means minimal damage in a fire and firefighters can respond to a fire or accident where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
"We feel that with a better response time, we can get aid out to those who need the emergency assistance there especially the tools that increase the likelihood of survival," Soliz said.
Soliz encourages the public to visit the station on Saturdays and Sundays to tour the station and meet the firefighters.