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East Contra Costa Co. prepares to close 3 fire stations

June 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Preparations are underway in the East Bay to shut down three fire stations and layoff crews, even as we move into a more dangerous phase of fire season. The closures are coming because voters said no to a tax increase.

Monday night the East Contra Costa fire chief addressed a room full of frustrated people at Oakley City Hall and explained to them that the cuts that are coming are tough. Those that will be hit the hardest will be those who live on the outskirts of the county.

On June 5th, voters in East Contra Costa County voted down Measure S - a parcel tax aimed at increasing revenue within the fire district. Tonight, city leaders were faced with the task of telling residents who would be losing their fire stations.

The East Contra Costa County Fire Chief Hugh Henderson says the cuts to service that are coming are tough - the residents hit the hardest - those living in the outer regions of the county.

A Bethel Island resident did not want to give her name, but her frustration was clear. She said, "They have just kicked us to the curb. I think a lot of us were extremely discouraged that Measure S did not pass. If they're at other calls in Oakley or Brentwood, where are we going to fall on that list when they're going to come out and help us? Right now, we're just like a ticking bomb."

Monday night, to a packed room, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District announced that they're preparing to close three fire stations and lay off as many as 19 employees.

Among the hardest hit will be areas like Bethel Island because of their small population on the outskirts of town.

"We're going to have to make hard decisions on scene. Are we going to be able to save a structure or are we going to have to be able to save the neighbor's house?" said Henderson.

Fire officials had hoped that Measure S, a parcel tax, would raise as much as $8 million and provide a much needed lifeline to the financially strapped emergency services and EMS agencies. However, the proposal was rejected by voters, forcing officials to keep stations only in the larger, more populated areas.

The funding would have allowed the district to keep six stations in operation. Now, they will be reduced to only having three, meaning that crews will be forced to cover more than 240 square miles, leaving some to feel exposed.

To give you an idea how dramatic these changes are, in 2010 there were eight full-functioning fire houses, now there will only be three. And the chief says more cuts could be coming.


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