Protect, Prevent, Educate
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Fire Station 40 has been serving the Rancho Peñasquitos community since 1981. As one of 48 stations in the SDFD, covering a service area of 16 and a half square miles with a crew of 10 people, one fire engine, one fire truck, and other specialized equipment, Fire Station 40 ensures that the lives, property, and environment of the residents of 92129 are protected every day, all year round. We speak with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Media Services Manager Lee Swanson to learn more about the personnel who serve our community, the tools and equipment they use, and the opportunities that SDFD provides for community education.
Q&A with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Media Services Manager Lee Swanson
What type of equipment does the station house? How does this compare to other fire stations in the area?
The first thing to understand is that in firefighter parlance, there is a difference between a fire engine and a fire truck. A fire engine carries water and has hoses for fighting fires. A fire truck has the big aerial ladder and carries a lot of tools that are useful not only at fires but also at rescues and traffic accidents and various other emergencies.
Station 40 has both an engine and a truck. There’s also an ambulance at Station 40. In addition, the station also has a brush engine, which is specially designed to fight fires in rough terrain where access is a problem and fire hydrants are few or nonexistent. There are two other specialized pieces of equipment at Station 40: a water tender and a light and air truck.
Water tenders are mobile water carriers. Each tender carries approximately 3,000 gallons of water. Water tenders are not used to supply water to fire hoses, but provide a source of water for brush rigs and engines at vegetation fires. It is like a mobile fire hydrant.
A light and air truck is a specialized rig designed to fill firefighters’ air tanks and provide lighting at the scene of an emergency.
Every fire station in the City has at least one engine, though Station 1 in Downtown San Diego has two engines. There are 13 stations that also have fire trucks. There are three water tenders in the City and two light and air rigs.
Which areas does Fire Station 40 serve?
Station 40’s engine district covers about 16 and a half square miles, encompassing Rancho Peñasquitos and a little of Sabre Springs to the east of Interstate 15. Because there are fewer fire trucks than fire engines, Truck 40 serves an area that stretches north to the Zoo Safari Park, west to cover Santaluz and Pacific Highlands Ranch, and east to the Poway city limits.
This doesn’t mean that the Station 40 crews won’t go outside those lines. If there’s a fire, we draw on resources from surrounding communities. And just as the fire engines from Station 46 at Santaluz, Station 44 in Mira Mesa, and Station 42 in Carmel Mountain Ranch could be dispatched to a fire in Rancho Peñasquitos, Engine 40 could be sent to those areas if it is available.
Can you explain the structure of Station 40, in terms of personnel and shifts?
There are 10 people assigned to Station 40 every day. There are four people in the engine company, four in the truck company, and two on the ambulance. The fire companies consist of a captain, an engineer, a firefighter-paramedic, and a firefighter.
The Captain is in charge of the day-to-day activities of his or her crew. In addition to emergency responses, the day may include inspections, in-service training, daily exercise, or community education events. At a fire, medical, or other emergency, the Captain directs the operations of his or her crew.
The engineer operates and maintains the fire apparatus and associated equipment. Engineers are responsible for the safe delivery of fire crews to and from emergencies.
The firefighters perform routine station maintenance. At the scene of a fire, firefighters are directly responsible for rescue and extinguishment of the fire. At medical calls firefighters are directly involved in patient care. All uniformed members of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and at least one member of each crew is also a paramedic.
The engine and truck companies work a 24-hour shift, starting at 8 a.m. in the morning. The workforce is divided into three divisions. Each division works four 24-hour shifts, with a full 24 hours off in between. After they complete four work shifts, that division gets six days off. The three divisions’ schedules overlap to cover every day of the week, all year round. It works out to a 56-hour week, and about 10 working days a month.
What is a typical day for firefighters at Station 40 like?
In addition to making sure their equipment is in top working condition and ready to go at a moment’s notice, Station 40 is what is called a “specialty station.” Station 40 is responsible for the repair, maintenance, annual inspection, and testing of all ground ladders. The firefighters look for loose rivets or nuts, cracks, or other faults. There are three ladders on each engine and 10 ladders on each truck. Besides ladders, Station 40 repairs small tools with wooden handles such as axes and pike poles.
Does Station 40 offer any safety classes or programs such as CPR or CERT for PQ community members?
The station doesn’t offer classes but the Department runs the CERT San Diego program. CERT San Diego instructors teach citizens to take life-saving action to help families, neighbors, businesses, and communities get through the first few hours or days when emergency services are overwhelmed.
Mission Statement of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department:
“To serve the community of San Diego by providing the highest level of emergency-rescue services, hazard prevention, and safety education ensuring the protection of life, property, and the environment.”
What mission or philosophy does the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department hold true?
To serve the community of San Diego by providing the highest level of emergency-rescue services, hazard prevention, and safety education ensuring the protection of life, property, and the environment.
What is the most gratifying aspect of servicing the 92129 area? And the most challenging?
The most gratifying part of this job has to be the people we serve. People in this area have always given us their support. Rancho Peñasquitos has a strong sense of community and the fire companies at Station 40 enjoy feeling that we are a part of the community.
The most challenging part of the job is when we do the best we can to help and it’s not enough; the outcome is not what we hoped for and what we worked for.
Do you have any advice for the 92129 residents about ensuring their safety?
The best advice we can offer is to always be ready. San Diego has hundreds of miles of canyons and open spaces. The San Diego
Fire-Rescue Department takes every precaution to help protect you and your property from wild fire. We offer our Ready, Set, Go! campaign which is a wildfire action guide that provides tips and tools you need to prepare – to know what to do when a fire starts and to leave early. Following the advice in the Ready, Set Go! booklet can help to fire-harden your home and can give firefighters the fighting chance we need to save homes and lives during a wildfire.
What are the most common types of calls that Station 40 responds to?
As is true throughout the City, the majority of calls at Station 40 are medical aids. In Fiscal Year 2015, for instance, Engine 40 responded to 1,423 medical calls and 159 fires. The crews were also called to 16 rescues and 171 hazard calls.
How can community members schedule visits to the station?
The Fire-Rescue Department has a very active community education program, both in presentations to schools and community groups and in conducting tours of the station. All of these are scheduled online through request forms on our website at www.sandiego.gov/fire/safety/speakers/index.shtml.
Does Fire Station 40 take part in the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation? Are there any upcoming events or fundraisers that the community can get involved in?
The Fire Rescue Foundation is an important resource for the Fire-Rescue Department. Formed in 2005 by former firefighters and community leaders, the San Diego Fire Rescue Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Tax-deductible donations to the Fire Rescue Foundation directly support the City of San Diego’s fire, lifeguard, and paramedics. It supplements the City budget and provides funds for equipment that would not be available to the firefighters otherwise.
The Foundation has made securing funding of $582,300 for Personal Escape Systems (PES) for every SDFD firefighter a priority for 2015. You can read about this project on the Foundation website at www.sdfirerescue.org/pes.
What’s in store for the San Diego Fire Rescue Department’s future?
As you may know, the Fire-Rescue Department has a new fire chief. After 35 years with the Department and six years as fire chief, Javier Mainar retired in November. Mayor Kevin Faulconer appointed Assistant Chief Brian Fennessy to succeed Mainar as San Diego’s 17th fire chief.
Chief Fennessy has 38 years of experience as a firefighter and has been in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department since 1990. He initiated and led the effort to get firefighting helicopters for the Department. The Air Operations Division has the only helicopter crews in the county, and one of the few in the nation, qualified to fly firefighting missions at night.
Fennessy is recognized nationally as an expert in wildland firefighting, as well as in urban firefighting operations. While San Diego has a robust and effective brush management program, Fennessy intends to bring the Fire Adapted Community concept to San Diego, making our canyon rim neighborhoods safer and better prepared against wildfire.
The new chief also has a goal to expand the recruiting efforts begun under Chief Mainar, bolstering the number of women and minorities who will join the ranks of the Department. San Diego also has several new fire stations on the drawing board. This year new stations have opened in Mission Valley and Skyline, and there are plans to rebuild and expand the fire stations serving Hillcrest, Point Loma, and City Heights. In addition, there are plans for new stations in the Downtown San Diego, south University City, and 4S Ranch areas.