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
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.