Category Archives: Fire Dept

Fire Stations of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

Update - In June of 2010 the Board of Directors voted in a budget with 48 fire personnel and 6 stations. Two stations were closed; station 57 in Byron and station 58 in Discovery Bay.

The Bethel Island Station (Station 95) was closed on July 1,2012.

Recently the new governing board for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) toured the districts eight fire stations. East Contra Costa Fire operates 8 fire stations (plus one CAL-FIRE Contracted fire station) that are located throughout the District to try to provide an average emergency driving response time of about six minutes. These stations are staffed 24 hours a day.

Station location may not be optimal since ECCFPD was formed in 2002 through the consolidation of three fire districts: Bethel Island Fire Protection District, East Diablo Fire Protection District, and Oakley Fire Protection District. Although the districts provided support for each other station location was determined based on criteria for each district.

The tour began in downtown Brentwood at Station 54 located at 739 First Street. This station was constructed in 1957 for a part time volunteer fire department. Living quarters are spartan, reminding me of office cubicles. It is staffed with 3 personnel. There are 2 engines; one for structure fires the other for wildland fires. There is also 2000 gallon water tender, a specialized firefighting apparatus designed for transporting water from a water source to a fire scene. Brentwood has property to relocate the station to Sand Creek and Garin Parkway. Total responses – 1646

Still in Brentwood Station 52 located at 201 John Muir Parkway constructed in 2001. It is staffed with 2 personnel. Also located at this station is American Medical Response (AMR), a privately-owned ambulance company, and a Quick Response Vehicles (QRV) added to the system to provide faster advanced life support response to all areas of the district. The station has the same equipment and station 54 only newer. Total responses – 1788

On to Byron and Station 57 located at 3024 First Street. Built in 1964, once again for a volunteer fire department. It is staffed with 2 personnel and AMR QRV paramedics. Two engines, one for structure and one for wildland and a reserve engine. Total responses – 294

Discovery Bay Station 58 at 1535 Discovery Bay Blvd, built in 1980. Although newer it was still constructed for a volunteer fire department. It is staffed by 2 persons and has one structure engine and 2000 gallon water tender. Total responses – 379

Discovery Bay Station 59 at 1685 Bixler Road, built in 2002. It is staffed with 2 persons and has one structure engine and one wildland engine. Total responses – 453

Oakley Station 93 located at 212 2nd Street, built in 1963. It is staffed with 3 personnel. There are 3 engines, one for structure fires, one for wildland fires and a reserve engine. There is also a 2000 gallon water tender, which is owned by the State Office of Emergency Services. This station will be moved to an approximately 1.5 acres site located on the corner of O’Hara Avenue and La Viña Way. A preliminary site plan includes a three-bay apparatus area; approximately 3,000 sq. ft. of dorms, kitchen, restrooms and office area; and, approximately 1,500 sq. ft. of a training room/emergency operations center area. A concrete driveway and parking area is planned behind the fire station and a small asphalt parking area is proposed to the north of the station. Also, included are a concrete driveway and small landscaped areas in front of the station. Design would start in late May and construction likely in August or September. Depending on weather – probably early 2011 it’s open. Cost of the Station will likely be around $3million – paid for by Fire Facilities Impact Fees. Total responses – 1853

Knightsen Station 94 located at 15 “A’ Street, built in 1963. It is staffed with 2 persons. There are 2 engines; one for structure fires the other for wildland fires and 2000 gallon water tender. – Total Responses – 768.

Bethel Island Station 95 located at 3045 Ranch Lane, built in 1950. It is staffed with 2 personnel and AMR QRV paramedics. Staff is housed in a temporary trailer because the station was condemned in the spring of 2008 after a major roof leak. The station was tested and lead paint, mold and asbestos were found throughout the building. There are 2 engines; one for structure fires the other for wildland fires and 2000 gallon water tender. – Total Responses – 383.

A New Direction for East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

The East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District was formed in 2002 through the consolidation of East Diablo Fire District, Oakley-Knightsen Fire District and Bethel Island Fire District. East County Fire District serves the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, as well as the unincorporated areas of Bethel Island, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, and Marsh Creek-Morgan Territory. Responsible for an area of some 250 square miles, the District is the second largest fire service in the County.

Wednesday night the new Board of Directors for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) held their first meeting. This special district was formally controlled by the Board of Supervisors. The meeting was largely procedural in nature. The new board was sworn in, a President (Erick Stonebarger), Vice President (Kevin Romick) and Clerk (Hugh Henderson) were selected, an attorney was approved, a permanent day and time for future board meetings were selected and District policies were approved.

Meetings will be held the first Monday on the month, starting at 6:30 at the Oakley City Council Chambers

Oakley representatives
Jim Frazier
Kevin Romick
Pat Anderson

Brentwood representatives
Bob Brockman
Bob Taylor
Chris Becnel
Erick Stonebarger

County representatives
Chris Finetti
Robert Kenny

The evening ended with a brief overview of the District. The district runs on a fiscal year. The 2009/2010 budget is $12,283,005 with property tax revenues of $10,575,355 (down 17% from last year due to declining property values). The remaining $1,707,650 comes from district reserves. Fire services are funded with property taxes, the 1% of the assessed value that we all pay. If you live in Oakley $0.06 of every dollar in property taxes is spent on fire. In Brentwood the amount increases to $0.07. However, if you in live in Antioch its $0.15, in Pittsburg its $0.16, in Concord its $0.13, Walnut Creek is $0.14 and in San Ramon its $0.13. These amounts vary across communities as a result of an archaic allocation scheme developed in 1978 with the passage of Prop 13.

The District’s staff consists of 55 full-time employees. The sworn permanent staff includes 53 full-time equivalents (FTEs), and the civilian staff is composed of two FTEs. Staffing is assigned by station with a two- person fire crew except the Oakley and downtown Brentwood station, which have 3-person crews. It provides fire suppression (structural, vehicle, and vegetation fires) and prevention, rescue, initial hazardous materials response, fire inspection, education and Basic Life Support (BLS) for medical emergencies until AMR, a privately-owned ambulance company, arrives to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) and ambulance transport services.

East Contra Costa Fire operates 8 fire stations (plus one CAL-FIRE Contracted fire station) that are located strategically throughout the District to provide an average emergency driving response time of about six minutes. Two of these stations are relatively new. The Oakley station will be rebuilt on O’Hara this year. Four other stations were constructed in the 1950’s and 60’s for a part time volunteer fire dept. The Bethel Island station has been condemned.

The challenges ahead are many. The District lacks adequate revenue to provide urban staffing levels in the urban areas, and relies in most areas on two-person crews. The District lacks paramedic staffing. Financing is not adequate for administrative staff to complete all demands for management and fire prevention functions. The District economizes on expenses by understaffing urban fire stations and administrative functions, by using on-call personnel to supplement staffing, and by paying salaries that are substantially lower than in other fire departments in the County.

A new Beginning for the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District

The County and the cities of Oakley and Brentwood recently concluded discussion on a new Fire Board. All three entities decided that a locally controlled Board would be the best way to address the issues of the fire district.

The next step for implementation of the new governing board for the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (ECCCFPD) is the appointment of Directors by Oakley, Brentwood and the County. Under authority of State Code (California Health and Safety Code § 13837), each entity will appoint the appropriate number of board members. The new Board will include 9 members: 4 from Brentwood, 3 from Oakley and 2 from the County. Under this appointed structure, the City Councils or Board of Supervisors appoints directors according to each entity’s proportionate share of population.

It is the intent of the three agencies that the new governing board will be effective February 10,2010. It is also the intent that the transition from the County providing administrative support to the new governing board providing the same support will occur within 6 months.

The Oakley City Council appointed Mayor Pat Anderson, Vice-Mayor Jim Frazier and Councilmember Kevin Romick to serve on the Board.

Fire Department – Is a New Governance in the Future?

The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) recently completed a state-required Municipal Service Review (MSR) for all Fire and Emergency Service Providers in Contra Costa County. This review included the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD).

ECCFPD operates eight staffed fire stations, which are staffed 24 hours a

2007 Service Calls by Station

2007 Service Calls by Station

day, and contracts with CAL FIRE for continual operation of its Sunshine station on Marsh Creek Road. Areas within ECCFPD include the cities of Oakley and Brentwood, a portion of the City of Antioch, and the unincorporated communities of Bethel Island, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, and other areas of unincorporated Contra Costa County. The District has a boundary area of approximately 238 square miles.

The District’s staff consists of 55 full-time staff and 25 paid on-call staff. The sworn permanent staff includes 53 full-time equivalents (FTEs), and the civilian staff is composed of two FTEs. Staffing is assigned by station with a two- person fire crew. It provides fire suppression (structural, vehicle, and vegetation fires) and prevention, rescue, initial hazardous materials response, fire inspection, education and Basic Life Support (BLS) for medical emergencies until American Medical Response (AMR), a privately-owned ambulance company, arrives to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) and ambulance transport services.

All 911 calls made from land lines in the unincorporated areas and the City of Oakley are automatically routed to the Contra Costa County Sheriff, which is the primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). The primary PSAP for the City of Brentwood and the small portion of the City of Antioch in District bounds is the City of Antioch Police Department. Once the PSAP dispatcher determines a call requires fire department response, the call is relayed to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (ConFire) secondary PSAP. ConFire directly dispatches the District’s staff. The District participates in closest-resource dispatching (cross-border) through ConFire.

Calls to 911 from cellular phones in Oakley and the unincorporated areas are initially routed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). CHP relays the calls requiring both law enforcement and fire/EMS response (e.g., auto accidents) to the primary PSAP, and dispatching follows the protocol discussed above. EMS calls are often routed directly to ConFire. The City of Antioch takes wireless calls directly. The County Sheriff has not yet begun taking wireless calls directly due to financial constraints.

On behalf of the District, ConFire checks fire plans for new development prior to construction. The District performed approximately 800 inspections in 2008. Fire safety inspections are completed annually on all businesses mandated for inspection and randomly for other businesses, and vegetation inspections are completed annually on selected parcels in the District.

The ECCFPD was formed in 2002 through the consolidation of three fire districts: Bethel Island Fire Protection District, East Diablo Fire Protection District, and Oakley Fire Protection District. Revenue sources include property taxes (94 percent), intergovernmental revenues (two percent), Oakley fees collected in Summer Lakes (one percent), and miscellaneous sources (three percent). The District’s share of property tax revenues was seven percent in Brentwood, five percent in Oakley, and nine percent on average in unincorporated areas in FY 07-08; by comparison, the average fire district property tax share countywide was 12 percent in cities (served by fire districts) and 13 percent in unincorporated areas.

The District lacks adequate revenue to provide urban staffing levels in the urban areas, and relies in most areas on two-person crews. The District lacks paramedic staffing. Financing is not adequate for administrative staff to complete all demands for management and fire prevention functions. It would cost the District about $18 million to achieve an urban level of service. The District’s total revenues were $12.2 million in FY 07-08. The District economizes on expenses by understaffing urban fire stations and administrative functions, by using on-call personnel to supplement staffing, and by paying salaries that are substantially lower than in other fire departments in the County.

The District’s governing body is the five-member county Board of Supervisors.

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This governance model was meant to be temporary. In the LAFCO resolution 02-24, creating the District, in 2002 it stated: “By December 2004, the question of governance shall be resolved and submitted for approval of the electorate within the boundaries of the consolidated East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, if necessary.” Although the other county-dependent FPDs—ConFire and Crockett-Carquinez FPD—have appointed advisory commissions, there is presently no such advisory body for ECCFPD.

The County and the cities of Oakley and Brentwood are currently discussing reorganizing the District’s Board so that its members are appointed by the governing bodies (Oakley, Brentwood and the Couty). The proposed 9 member board would be composed of 4 representatives from Brentwood, 3 from Oakley and 2 appointed by the County. These numbers are based on population. This appointed board would likely morph into an elected board with the same representation.

Local control would have a better chance of improving the district by bringing decision-making and accountability closer to the people affected. It affords local board members the opportunity to develop a Fire District that fits the local needs and encourages “out of the box thinking” looking for solutions that require experimentation and innovation to deal the myriad of problems facing the District.

Surrounded by Water, Bethel Island Has Limited Access for Fighting Fires

This is the title of the latest report issued by the 2008-2009 Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is annually impaneled to investigate city and county governments, special districts and certain nonprofit corporations to ensure functions are performed in a lawful, economical and efficient manner.

The Grand Jury was convened to determine if the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) is serving the residents of Bethel Island adequately.

ECCFPD was formed, in 2002, by combining East Diablo Fire District, Oakley-Knightsen Fire District and Bethel Island Fire District. It is governed by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors (BOS).

The report states; “The BOS, in its application for the consolidation of the East County fire districts, recommended the formation of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). They committed to provide seamless service and improve emergency response times. The BOS committed to coordinate future efforts to develop funding and fire protection service levels to equal status with the remainder of Bay Area communities. Seven years later there has been little progress, and the emergency response time still comes up short compared to response times prior to the ECCFPD formation.”

Major areas of concern regarding Bethel Island include the following:

  • A portion of the fire fighting personnel is continually rotated without a formal orientation regarding the unique characteristics of the island.
  • Fire hydrants are available in the business district. This area encompasses only about one-third of a mile of Bethel Island’s community. At present they are not functional. There are approximately 7 miles of heavily populated roads that must rely on trucked in water. 
  • Surrounded by water, Bethel Island has no readily available water to fight fires.
  • In addition to the water available on the fire trucks and local private pumps, fire fighting water is brought in by tanker trucks or drafted (pumped) from the Delta. 
  • The fire house has been condemned due to mold infestation.

The Grand Jury recommendations include:
1. Establish an oversight commission, as was done during the formation of the ECCFPD.The commission could assist in managing funding issues, determine future resources (equipment, personnel or fire stations), determine areas of risk, recommend the establishment of response time goals, improve local control, and reduce perceived inequities as they pertain to Fire District decisions.
2. That ECCFPD provide formal orientation training specific to Bethel Island for all District fire fighters.
3. That ECCFPD complete a risk assessment of all areas of the District and establish an acceptable level of risk for each area to include response-time goals established for each area. Measurements shall be taken and compared to goals. The District shall develop objectives based on existing available resources.
4. That ECCFPD develop a cost comparison of various options to provide additional water supply for fire use on Bethel Island. Suggestions include but are not limited to:

  • strategic placement of water tanks, and/or
  • provide a method to move Delta water to the land side.

Fire District Review – Oakley’s Options

If the recommendations from the MSR are enacted by LAFCO what are the options available for Oakley?

The first recommendation, to expand and contract the SOI for the district, will not have much of an impact on Oakley. The second, determining a new governance model and determining and adequate revenue stream within a 12-month time frame, may prove more problematic.

One of the constant themes throughout the report was the inadequate revenue for the district. The allocation of property taxes post Prop 13 has severally limited the service that can be provided without an additional revenue stream. Fire stations in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley have smaller crews than in urban areas elsewhere, and a substantial portion of tax revenues generated in the cities is expended on operating fire stations in outlying areas. Property tax revenues generated in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley presently subsidize service levels in the unincorporated areas.

ECCFPD governing body members (Board of Supervisors) are not representative of the community. So what are the alternatives?

INDEPENDENT DISTRICT
In 2002, when the district was formed, LAFCO discussed the alternative of an independent district and a JPA. They had expected a timely decision on the matter, and expected a ballot measure on independent governance if a JPA was not be formed within a two-year period. As recently as 2008 Oakley, Brentwood and the County had lengthy discussions on an independent district. In an independent district, the district is governed by an elected board. The size board would be determined by Oakley, Brentwood and the County. The board may initially be composed of council members and supervisors, but would eventually be elected members of the public, as are board members for Ironhouse Sanitary District and Diablo Water District.

JPA
A Joint Powers Authority (JPA) is permitted in California and other states to allow two or more public authorities (e.g. local governments) to operate collectively on activities that transcend their boundaries. Oakley is currently involved in a number of JPAs that include: Tri Delta Transit and the State Route 4 Bypass Authority. The board of directors would be elected officials from member governments of the JPA.

ESTABLISH MORE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF SERVICE
In a district as diverse as ECCFPD what is the best way allocate the scares resource of the district? The Board of Supervisors have been operating the District with the mindset that the entire District needs the same level of service, which has been done at the expense and risk to the more suburban areas of the District, Oakley and Brentwood. We could create a level of service designation that is essentially 2-tiered – one rural and one suburban. Some East County areas would likely have 3 firefighter stations, some 2 person, and maybe one or two Paid-on-Call or stations closed. This scenario may also work on a grander scale if we could adopt it as a means of consolidating with ConFire.

OAKLEY CONSOLIDATION WITH ConFire
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (ConFire) provides fire prevention, suppression, and emergency medical response for advanced and basic life support to nine cities and much of the unincorporated territory in the central and western portions of the County. The ConFire boundaries encompass the central and northern portions of Contra Costa County, extending from the City of Antioch in the east to the eastern border of the City of Richmond in the west, and as far south as the northern border of the City of Moraga

Is it possible for Oakley to merge with ConFire? ConFire currently is the first on the scene on a number of calls in western Oakley. The MSR has determined that Oakley and or Brentwood do not presently have adequate funding to finance service levels provided by ConFire. ConFire salary levels and service levels are substantially higher than those paid by ECCFPD, and ConFire receives a substantially higher share of property taxes than would be available if the cities were to detach from ECCFPD. The two cities generated $7.7 million, or approximately $92 per capita, in fire-related property tax revenues in FY 07-08. By comparison, ConFire revenues were $198 per capita.

DISTRICT CONSOLIDATION WITH ConFIRE
Consolidation of the entire ECCFPD with ConFire is also an option, albeit infeasible. Although transferable property tax revenues per capita are slightly higher in the unincorporated areas than in the cities, the costs of sustaining existing service levels in the unincorporated areas is significantly higher than in the cities. Consolidation of the entire ECCFPD area with ConFire would have a greater negative fiscal impact on ConFire than would annexation of just the cities. ECCFPD is not financially incompatible with ConFire at this time.

In both cases if the financial incompatibility is not addressed, the options are infeasible because the law empowers ConFire to oppose annexation and because existing ConFire areas would have incentives to oppose an annexation that would likely have negative impacts on existing ConFire service levels.

ConFire staff supports consolidation with other fire agencies and annexations so long as there is a baseline funding level, such as the equivalent of a net 12 percent property tax share, and reported that the source of funds was of less concern than the funding level. Based on that standard, Oakley would need an additional $2 million in revenue (FY 07-08 dollars) for fire purposes, and Brentwood would need an additional $3 million in revenue to afford ConFire service levels. The shortfall is the equivalent of $178 per home in the two cities.

ESTABLISH OUR OWN FIRE DEPTPARTMENT
Oakley could detach itself from the district and create our own fire department. Although the thought of having an “Oakley Fire Department” sounds somewhat nostalgic the realities of the existing revenue dilemma would make the idea cost prohibitive.

ANOTHER SERVICE PROVIDER
Oakley could detach itself from the district and contract with another service provider, such as CAL FIRE. The cities’ property tax revenues would clearly provide for a higher service level than the cities are currently receiving. 

Which option is best for Oakley. Right now I’m not sure. Negotiations between Oakley, Brentwood and the County need to start again. Ultimately the voters of Far East County will have their say.

Fire District Review – Recommendations

The Municipal Service Review (MSR) for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) provided a number of recommendations. The first is to adjust the sphere of influence (SOI) of the district. It needs to expand and contract. The expansion would include adding the Delta islands, Jersey Island, Bradford Island and Webb Tract, which are currently served by the District, and then reducing the SOI in the City of Antioch by dropping Roddy Ranch and Russellmann Park in the City of Clayton.

The second recommendation has to do with the ECCFPD SOI. It would be designated as “provisional” and contingent on discussions between the County and the cities of Oakley and Brentwood relating to independent governance, adequate financing, and equitable allocation of resources. The provisional SOI would automatically expire at the expiration of a 12-month period (from the date of actual SOI update) and revert to a zero SOI. A zero SOI would essentially dissolve the district. 

Independent Governance
ECCFPD is a dependent special district and is governed by the five-member county Board of Supervisors. Other governance options could include an independent governing board or a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and ultimately local control. ECCFPD has not succeeded in implementing governance changes, specifically an independent governing body representative of the community, as had been recommended by LAFCO at the time of its 2002 formation. LAFCO resolution 02-24 stated “By December 2004, the question of governance shall be resolved and submitted for approval of the electorate within the boundaries of the consolidated East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, if necessary.”

Adequate Financing
The District’s total revenues were $12.2 million in FY 07-08. Revenue sources include property taxes (94 percent), intergovernmental revenues (two percent), Oakley fees collected in Summer Lakes (one percent), and miscellaneous sources (three percent). The District’s share of property tax revenues was seven percent in Brentwood, five percent in Oakley, and nine percent on average in unincorporated areas in FY 07-08; by comparison, the average fire district property tax share countywide was 12 percent in cities (served by fire districts) and 13 percent in unincorporated areas. ECCFPD lacks adequate revenues to provide urban staffing levels in urban areas, and relies in most areas on two person crews; whereas all other fire service providers in Contra Costa (except CCFPD) rely on three-person crews. It would cost the District about $18 million to achieve an urban level of service. A previous study prepared by Citygate determined that a tax increase would be needed to fund adequate service levels.

Equitable Allocation of Resources
How are resources allocated within the district? Fire stations in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley have smaller crews than in urban areas elsewhere, and a substantial portion of tax revenues generated in the cities is expended on operating fire stations in outlying areas. Property tax revenues generated in the cities of Brentwood and Oakley presently subsidize service levels in the unincorporated areas. Perhaps a two-tiered service approach under which Oakley and Brentwood would achieve an urban level of service and rural areas would be assigned a different service level.

Fire District Service Review

One of the major planning task for the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is the establishment of “spheres of influence” for the various governmental bodies within their jurisdictions. As described by Section 56076, the sphere is to be “a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local government agency.” LAFCO must adopt a sphere of influence (SOI) for each city and special district. Every five years the SOIs must be reviewed and possibly be updated. This process is known as a Municipal Service Review (MSR). In September of 2008, LAFCO initiated a countywide fire and emergency medical services (EMS) MSR. The report from this review became available in April 2009.

eccfpd

Click to enlarge map

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) was formed in 2002 as a county-dependent district through the consolidation of the Bethel Island, East Diablo and Oakley fire districts. Included in the ECCFPD are the cities of Oakley, Brentwood, a portion of Antioch and Clayton, the unincorporated communities of Bethel Island, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, and other areas of unincorporated Contra Costa, 238 square miles.

The District’s staff consists of 55 full-time staff and 25 paid on-call staff. The sworn permanent staff includes 53 full-time equivalents (FTEs), and the civilian staff is composed of two FTEs. The Fire Chief is responsible for organizational productivity and accountability, and is directly responsible for finance and personnel. The District is organized into divisions for operations, administration, EMS and training, and fire prevention. Three battalion chiefs report directly to the Fire Chief; battalion chiefs are responsible for operations, fleet, training, and reserves.

The District provides EMS services until AMR, a privately-owned ambulance company, arrives to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) and ambulance transport services. The District contracts with ConFire for dispatch, radio, information and fire prevention services. ECCFPD contracts with CAL FIRE to provide fire protection service to the Marsh Creek area of the District.

Some observation made in the report:

ECCFPD relies on property taxes for 94 percent of its revenue, and receives a below average share of property taxes compared with other fire districts in the County. Its share of property taxes (net of redevelopment) is seven percent in Brentwood, five percent in Oakley, and nine percent in unincorporated areas; by comparison, the average fire district share was 12 percent in incorporated areas and 13 percent in unincorporated areas. There are no feasible opportunities whereby the District would elicit a portion of the property tax share received by other local agencies (e.g., the cities, the County or the schools).

Residential population growth in the ECCFPD boundary is projected to be significantly faster than the countywide average. Brentwood is projected to be the fastest-growing city in the County. Growth in Oakley is projected to be on par with neighboring Antioch and Pittsburg. Residential growth areas include Trilogy at the Vineyards, Rose Garden, Palmilla, Cypress Corridor, the Lakes and Cecchini Ranch in Discovery Bay, Byron Airport, and Delta Coves in Bethel Island. In the long-term, growth is expected to increase the population from 106,386 in 2008 to 158,515 in 2030.

Commercial growth is also projected to be significantly faster in ECCFPD compared with the countywide average. Oakley and Brentwood are projected to have the highest job creation rates in the County, outpacing neighboring Antioch and Pittsburg. In the longterm, growth is expected to increase the job base from 17,480 in 2008 to 34,251 in 2030.

The District’s facility needs have evolved rapidly in the last decade due to consolidation of formerly separate fire districts, a shift from on-call to staffed stations in much of the service area, and rapid growth. There are as many stations and personnel serving the Discovery Bay and Byron area (with a combined population of about 13,368 and 673 annual service calls) as the cities of Oakley and Brentwood (with a combined population of about 84,000 and 3,500 annual service calls). A number of the fire stations are no longer strategically located to minimize both costs and response times. At a minimum, FS 54, FS 58 and FS 93 (Oakley) are not strategically located.

In the urban areas, ECCFPD provides minimally adequate service levels. ECCFPD staffs fire stations with two personnel per station regardless of whether a station is located in an urban area or outlying town; by contrast, four personnel per apparatus is the recommended urban staffing level. The District does not offer paramedic services. Response times meet certain guidelines some of the time, but fall short of meeting guidelines 90 percent of the time. ECCFPD’s staffing level of 0.5 sworn staff per 1,000 people is substantially lower than the countywide average (0.8), as well as the Bay Area average for urban fire providers (0.9). Based on staff certification levels, ECCFPD staff credentials and skills appear to be adequate. Training hours per sworn staff member are lower than the countywide average.

Fire District Update

I attended a briefing held by the ECCFPD Fire Chief and Supervisors Piepho and Glover. Also in attendance were representatives from Brentwood, Byron, Knightsen, Discovery Bay and Bethel Island. Attached is the presentation. You will note that plans are still underway to soon bring an additional firefighter to the Oakley station and an additional firefighter to one of the Brentwood stations. An AMR Quick Response Vehicle (QRV) would move from Byron to Discovery Bay and one of the two Discovery Bay stations would not be manned.

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Fire – Where do we go from here

During the last two years, discussions have been underway with representatives from Contra Costa County, Oakley and Brentwood regarding the status of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). Concern continues to grow about the possible effectiveness of its operations. However, these discussions have stalled.

The district is woefully underfunded. Fire services are funded with property taxes, the 1% of the assessed value that we all pay. If you live in Oakley $0.06 of every dollar in property taxes is spent on fire. In Brentwood the amount increases to $0.07. However, if you in live in Antioch its $0.15, in Pittsburg its $0.16, in Concord its $0.13, Walnut Creek is $0.14 and in San Ramon its $0.13. These amounts vary across communities as a result of an archaic allocation scheme developed in 1978 with the passage of Prop 13.

The present funding has the district operating with two firefighters on each engine and no paramedics, which falls short of the industry standard of three firefighters. One of the three firefighters on each engine should be a trained paramedic. The salary and benefit levels for the district personnel are substantially below industry levels.

A 2006 study, performed by Citygate, served to accentuate these deficiencies. The study concluded that far East County will eventually need 10 fire stations with three firefighters on each engine. Again, one of the firefighters on each engine should be a trained paramedic. According to the study, it would cost the district about $18 million to achieve that level of service. The study also concluded that a tax increase is necessary to provide more money to fund this service.

There was one option that the Citygate study did not address: a merger with Contra Costa Fire District (Con Fire). Incorporating all 10 stations into Con Fire would be cost prohibitive. But, if we are merging are 10 stations necessary? Can adding 7 stations serve the majority of the protection area and still achieve the most effective and safe emergency responses? Can the Department’s Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) System (a system that uses satellites to track fire department units to allow the dispatch of the closest unit to any given emergency) reduce response time by tracking a units exact location and status thereby allowing the closest unit to be dispatched? Oakley and Brentwood are planning to build one station each in the near future. Are the locations best suited to the delivery of emergency services? Will they create overlaps with existing stations?

The residents living in the Con Fire district (Antioch, Clayton, Concord, Lafayette, Martinez, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo, Walnut Creek, Bay Point, Clyde, El Sobrante, Pacheco, Port Chicago) pay the same 1% property tax that far East County residents pay. Before we ask far East County residents to pay more to receive the same services we need to create a regional view of the fire services provided by Con Fire, ECCFPD and possibly the whole County. The view needs to answer the key questions of merger, number of stations, station location and how we can fully capitalize on the AVL that is currently in place to capture economies of scale that come with expansion.

The residents of far East County deserve the same fire protection services afforded the rest of the county. The fire fighters of ECCFPD have been underpaid and understaffed for years. They deserve to have equipment above the minimum standard, staffing at the minimum standard, and to be paid the average of their peers that do the same job.