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.
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.