FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, August 4, 2014
CONTACT: Hugh Henderson, Fire Chief
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Braces for Expiration of
Federal Grant, to Temporarily Close Brentwood Fire Station
OAKLEY—The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors has unanimously approved a plan to temporarily close Fire Station 54 in Brentwood to maximize efficient use of limited resources and personnel. The station will be closed effective September 1, 2014.
District revenues, which are heavily dependent on property taxes, decreased 40 percent due to the recession and housing crisis. Significant budget cuts – including salary freezes and increased payroll contributions for pensions – combined with uncertainty surrounding future funding and potential station closures and layoffs have led some local firefighter/EMTs to leave the district for more stable and better-paying jobs elsewhere.
As of July 1, the District’s staffing level was 35 station suppression personnel – leaving 10 positions vacant. Additionally, one fire captain is recovering from an injury and one firefighter is serving active military duty. In the month of July alone, maintaining the five-station model required 160 overtime shifts from remaining personnel, including 15 mandatory holds – incidents where firefighter/EMTs were required to remain on duty until relieved by a colleague.
“Our firefighters are already paid 25 percent less than those in neighboring departments that also provide superior job security,” said Fire Chief Hugh Henderson. “The hours that they have been working to keep five stations open are unsustainable and potentially a risk to public safety in East County.”
The temporary station closure will remain in effect until the District determines the outcome of the ballot for a fire suppression benefit assessment. With federal funding set to expire in November, the Board of Directors on Monday voted unanimously to propose the assessment to property owners. Ballots will be mailed this month and a public hearing to determine the results will be held after at least 45 days of voting.
An Engineer’s Report on the District website details the rationale and methodology of the benefit assessment, which, if not protested via a majority of the weighted votes by property owners, could fund the cost of keeping five stations open for five years.
Should the assessment be approved by property owners, additional personnel can be hired and trained, allowing Station 54 to reopen.
If the fire suppression assessment is rejected by property owners, the District will likely make the Brentwood station closure permanent and be required to close an additional station on December 1, 2014. Operational changes to call responses and protocols will need to be implemented if the District returns to the three-station model.
“Based on our current budget, staffing levels and the impending expiration of our federal SAFER Grant, four stations is the level of service we can afford to provide,” Henderson added. “We will do everything we can to maintain emergency response times and will reopen Station 54 in Brentwood as soon as logistically possible if revenue to replace our expiring grant becomes available through the proposed assessment.”
ABOUT THE EAST CONTRA COSTA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT: The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District spans 249 square miles and our firefighter/EMTs serve more than 100,000 residents in the Cities of Brentwood and Oakley, the Town of Discovery Bay, the communities of Byron, Bethel Island and Knightsen, the Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area, and all other areas within unincorporated Contra Costa County to the east of Antioch and to the southeast of Clayton.
SPECIAL VS. GENERAL BENEFIT ANALYSIS:
ECCFPD_Spec vs General Benefit Analysis_7-25-14
Property Owners in East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Telephone Survey:
July survey of property owners regarding fire assessment