City OKs fire engine to serve Leucadia

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously approved a pilot project that fire department officials hope will reduce response times to medical and fire emergencies in the northwestern edge of Leucadia. 

But the unanimous vote belies a number of concerns council members raised about the cost of the project.

The project calls for the city to deploy a type-6 engine, which is much smaller than the typical fire engine, in the area from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the peak-demand time for fire services.

Historically, fire crews response times have lagged in north Leucadia and Saxony Canyon compared to the rest of the city, failing to meet the city goal of responding to 80 percent of the calls within five minutes. 

These response times could become even longer with the forthcoming North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape project, which would slow vehicles down on Coast Highway 101, officials said. 

Like most regions of the city, the majority of the calls that firefighters respond to in the area are for medical aid. 

Fire Chief Mike Stein said the goal for the project was similar to what the city accomplished in 2011 when Encinitas opened its sixth fire station in Olivenhain. 

“In a major medical emergency, time does equal life,” Stein said. “For every minute goes by chances of survival (of a medical emergency) decrease 10 percent.” 

The yearlong pilot will cost 345,150, and $564,000 in ongoing costs if the city makes the program permanent. 

City officials expressed concerns about the costs, and directed the fire department to look at ways to cut the costs, including partnerships with the city of Carlsbad and leasing the truck from the county of San Diego for $1 a year. 

“I am absolutely not going to be supporting buying a whole new rig,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “To me there are a lot of places we need money, need to make sure we are prioritizing.”

Stein said the department considered other options, including adding an ambulance to the area, which proved to be costlier. But he said the department was open to all of the suggestions and would be looking for ways to reduce the overall costs. 

Other council members said that the project would address a problem area that the fire department has long identified as an issue. 

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