By CBSLA Staff

SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) — With so many of its personnel out sick with COVID-19 or in isolation, the San Diego Fire Department is starting out the new year with a skeleton crew.

San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell issued a memo last Thursday, detailing the “Emergency Brown-Out Plan” that went into effect Monday. The plan was rolled out due to 94 personnel who are sick with COVID or are in isolation, and could cause longer ambulance response times and make battling fires more dangerous with fewer hands on deck.

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“We literally don’t have enough firefighters to staff the amount of first responder apparatus in operations,” the department’s union president, Jesse Conner, said.

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Up to seven engine companies, including Squad 55 and X-Ray 1 crews, can be temporarily closed daily under the emergency brown-out plan. Crew members displaced from the depleted units will work in other stations on other apparatus in place of firefighters who are off duty, according to Stowell’s memo. With the exception of Squad 55, Stowell said only stations with more than one first responder are included in the plan and only one unit in the station will be closed.

Post Academy Training Stations 10 and 44, the department’s HazMat station, and Station 2 are not included in the plan.

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“Not all stakeholders agree with every aspect of this plan, but this is the best option available currently to address the current staffing shortages during this recent surge in COVID cases,” Stowell’s memo said.