Santa Barbara Fire Chief Andrew DiMizio presented his department’s proposed $21.36 million budget to the City Council on Monday night, and said the SBFD hopes to improve on response times and cut down on the number of injuries next year.

Last year, there was talk of “browning out” Fire Station No. 3, at 415 E. Sola St., so DiMizio is pursuing more data on response times and types of calls to so he can numerically defend having every station open, he said.

The Fire Department has a higher response time than other South Coast municipalities, at 88 percent of calls being answered within five minutes.

It was an unusual year for SBFD with an unprecedented number of retirements and hours lost to injury or illness, Operations Division Chief Pat McElroy said.

In response, the department is implementing a wellness and fitness committee and DiMizio wants to find funding for annual physicals.

Constant staffing requirements have led to hundreds of overtime hours — including 294 hours of forced overtime during the past three years. At all times, there will be one battalion chief, three engine crew members for each of the eight stations and a four-member squad truck/rescue crew working.

The in-house training and effort to hire laterally from other departments will help get more employees out on the street more quickly to fill vacancies, McElroy said.

Seventy-two percent of the department’s calls are medical, 2 percent are fire calls — the most dangerous and labor intensive — and the other 26 percent are a mixture of hazardous materials, traffic calls and even elevator rescues.

Fire Marshal Joe Poire said the department is hopeful of increasing defensible-space enforcement to balance out public education in the foothill areas. The fire prevention division is also responsible for inspections, fire and arson investigations, some training and emergency plans for the city.

The City Council has been hearing from each of the city’s departments as it prepares to adopt a municipal budget by June 21 for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Click here to read the Fire Department’s proposed 2011-2012 budget.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.