By Steve Aubert, Fire Marshal/Public Information Officer, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District
Brentwood, CA — East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD), the local fire agency serving Brentwood and Oakley Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen, Byron, Marsh Creek, and Morgan Territory announced Wednesday, that due to severe under-funding, it has been forced to take new, urgent measures to maintain its extremely limited operations and keep firefighters safe.
Starting July 1, the Fire District will only send firefighters inside a burning building if human life is at risk. Due to the extreme conditions resulting from a 3-station deficit, ECCFPD firefighters are being forced to spread themselves across 3 stations not 6, covering 250 square miles. This is pushing our firefighters to their limits as they respond to twice as many calls for help. Furthermore, the added strain of unbalanced “automatic aid” agreements with other county fire departments are becoming unsustainable. ECCFPD must now focus on containing the fire to the structure involved. Unfortunately, this defensive first operation strategy raises the safety risk factors for families, businesses, and for property within our communities just as the 2020 fire season is getting underway. Also announced by ECCFPD on Wednesday: all public outreach events and station visits will be eliminated indefinitely.
The safety risk of being under-funded and short 3 fire stations is real and growing, according to ECCFPD Fire Chief Brian Helmick. “In fire emergencies, every second counts. When a fire or emergency strikes, you need help fast. Response times matter. Delayed response times can allow a fire to double in size every 30 seconds. But our reality is that East Contra Costa communities, your homes, businesses, and your families will, on average, face slower responses than national standards recommend, when you call 911.”
“Due to severe under-funding, our firefighters are continually overrun responding to calls, maintaining required training and trying to be active in public education. We must take necessary steps to save lives and provide the safest environment for our workforce, so firefighters are ready and able to answer the call when it comes,” Chief Helmick added.
“These are not steps we want to take – and candidly, they may not be the last. We may have to consider other, even more drastic measures” said Chief Helmick, adding, “The reality is, we have to live within our means and keep our firefighters safe. We are working tirelessly to address our severe funding shortfall, including correcting past oversights and renegotiating developer fees and other fees that should have been put into place decades ago. We are also practicing full transparency, asking our community for input, and continuously LISTENING in every direction. Our goal is to find common ground that helps shape a local ballot measure that our community can support, authorizing a new, stable and reliable (i.e. guaranteed, sustainable and sufficient) local funding source that secures adequate ECCFPD fire protection in the future and that doesn’t take resources away from our public service partners.”
Learn more at www.eccfpd.org.
ABOUT THE EAST CONTRA COSTA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT:
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) is a rural-funded fire district that currently operates 3 fire stations and has a 3-station deficit. The District protects a population of more than 128,000 across its 249 square-mile service area. ECCFPD provides firefighting personnel, emergency medical services (basic life support) and fire prevention to the residents and businesses of the cities of Brentwood and Oakley, and unincorporated communities of Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen, Byron, Marsh Creek, and Morgan Territory. Learn more at www.eccfpd.org or social media via Facebook (East Contra Costa Fire Protection District), Instagram(@east_contra_costa_