‘Brownout’ Closed Point Loma Fire Station Last Weekend

by on October 1, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

Point Loma fire station in last stages of construction.

The public learned this week that a “brownout” closed the Point Loma fire station on Catalina Boulevard last weekend. On Wednesday, Fire Chief Colin Stowell said staffing shortages forced the department to close the fire engine and also three specialty firefighting units. The department hasn’t had to resort to “brownouts” in over a decade. Stowell said:

“Brownouts are totally our last resort and I can’t remember the last time this happened, so I would not expect this is going to be a regular occurrence. The many factors and complexities creating these challenges will slowly subside over time.”

Those other factors included the pandemic and Northern Cal wildfires.

  • 22 firefighters are in isolation because of possible exposures to the virus;
  • several firefighters are on state-approved COVID-19 leave to care for family members.
  • many city firefighters are helping fight wildfires in Northern California.
  • others have recently returned from there, making them unlikely to volunteer for overtime shifts on days when a staffing shortage arises.
  • the cancellation last year of one of San Diego’s three annual fire academies because of the pandemic, which cost the city as many as 30 new firefighters.

According to David Garrick at the U-T, “the crisis” started early Saturday “when more than 90 firefighters assigned to work that day notified the city they wouldn’t make it because of vacation, leave or some other factor.”

The Chief explained that was almost three times the 30 to 40 firefighters who don’t come in on a typical day. Usually, the department fills vacancies by offering available firefighters overtime, but not enough volunteers were ready to go on Saturday.

It’s unclear if any firefighters called in due to the city mandate to be vaccinated. Did anti-vaxxers caused the brownout? At this point, there is nothing to suggest that was a factor.

Point Loma was selected, as Garrick reported, “because it is one of 13 companies operating out of a ‘double’ station, meaning the station is home to both an engine company and a truck company.

Stowell said another reason Point Loma was chosen is the proximity of nearby fire stations in Ocean Beach and Mission Hills. If additional brownouts are necessary, he said, it’s likely the city will choose a different double station.

The head of the labor union that represents fire fighters agreed with Stowell. “The circumstances just lined up perfectly,” said Jesse Connor, president.

Connor agreed with Stowell that additional brownouts are unlikely. He expressed optimism that many firefighters are in the process of returning to more normal circumstances than they’ve experienced recently.


The three specialty crews browned out last Saturday are the mobile operation team, the bomb squad and a fast response squad that operates in Encanto. The mobile operations team is a two-person crew that operates Friday and Saturday nights only in the Gaslamp Quarter, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The bomb squad, which works out of Station 1 downtown, is still available when it gets shut down, Stowell said. The crew gets assigned to an engine company, and they get pulled off that engine if there is a bomb incident. The fast response squad is a two-person crew that responds to emergencies from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. This squad was also browned out Thursday, Sept. 23.

The city has 942 firefighters, 74 fewer than the 1,016 city officials have set as a goal. The shortage has delayed a plan to deploy roving “peak-hour” engines to shrink response times in areas with high call volumes.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam October 1, 2021 at 5:43 pm

I can not for the life of me understand why there are so many anti-vax nurses and first responders. Frankly, it is pretty scary to think of these people as anti science. Such a shame so many are out with Covid.


Peter from South O October 2, 2021 at 4:03 am

There aren’t a lot, actually. They just get all the attention. If you look at the local hospitals the percentages of vaccinated nurses and doctors are in the mid to high 90 percentiles.
Those that refuse to contribute to the safety of society will soon be looking for other jobs, as will the teachers that hazard our children out of selfishness.
‘First responders’ as a descriptor takes in a lot of territory, and one would expect that group to reflect the population at large.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The media does not help much when they lean towards the sensational and give the unfortunates air time to vent their imaginary grievances, drawing way too much attention to the Luddites, religious nuts and cultists among us.


sealintheSelkirks October 2, 2021 at 3:12 pm

I wish that was a reality up here, Peter. It’s not if you add in all the hospital workers who are refusing to vaccinate, too. The State Patrol cops have a not so surprisingly large percentage saying they are going to quit if they are required like teachers and hospital staff, and at least a thousand have applied for ‘religious’ exemptions to vaccinating. EXCUSE ME? So if Typhoid Mary was still alive today (a real person by the way), she could get a religious exemption by claiming her god wouldn’t let anything happen?
Biggest cause of national cop deaths this last year was covid! And they were considered ‘duty-related’ which in actuality they were not UNLESS they were fully vaccinated. WTF?
We are hitting Crisis Care/Battlefield Triage here, our local hospitals are collapsing. I picked up the last two weekly local newspaper yesterday, the 23rd and the 30th. Oh my hell. Since Aug 26th when the Mothers Against Masks in Schools’ picket protest in front of the Chewelah School Board building…every single week this gets far worse. We have again surpassed every record since this pandemic started. EMTs have now gone out on emergencies driving personal cars to pick people up. The ambulance service is overwhelmed.
And the latest, one in four cars at the Colville hospital testing site is positive along with this quote: “Reports of people who AWARE that they had the virus continuing to go out into the community were also recorded.” Providence Hospital PR Info Officer Beth Hodges quote: “We are seeing people get sick and then expose other people quickly.”
Hell indeed, eh? Going to be far fewer Republicans in the next year around here as the death toll mounts.

On a lighter note the publisher decided to use my Letter to the Editor I wrote in response to the absolutely moronic shit spewed by the anti-mask crowd that picketed the Chewelah Board of Education building with two pictures that were on the front page of August 26th’s paper that just pissed me off. He’s using my words as a foil, a substitute to what he personally cannot say but thinks. I don’t mind. Stirring the hornet’s nest indeed.
And yesterday I walked into Safeway and got 15 feet inside before realizing that fully half the customers walking around or very close together in line, were not wearing masks. Safeway refuses to enforce the mask mandate, there would be fights, there would be pickets, there would probably be knives or guns pulled. The local cops won’t enforce of course. Though all Safeway employees are masked but after an 8 hour shift just how much a cheap cloth mask that is soaked from exhaling wet air with unmasked/unvaxxed idiots in front of you two feet or less just doesn’t seem like it would make a hell of a lot of difference, ya know? I was in an N95. I turned and got the hell out of there.

This is insane. This next week I will be nervously waiting for symptoms.



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