A grass fire threatened 11 homes in unincorporated Brentwood last Thursday. Contra Costa County sent four fire engines to help. Now, they say three engines is all they can send moving forward. "We need to make sure we protect our citizens who are paying, who are basically footing the bill for this," Contra Costa County Fire Chief Capt. Robert Marshall said. "So, we have to make sure that we can provide enough coverage for our citizens. Even though we're happy to help when we can, it's just that we can't always do that."
The chief of East County says he understands the decision, but is worried about what it will mean. "We are going to lose some houses and there are going to be some major injuries, and we're going to have some different outcomes," Eddie Washington told ABC7 News.
Voters in East County rejected a parcel tax that would have helped fund the fire district, so on July 1 officials closed half of the fire stations. There are now three engines and nine firefighters covering 249 square miles. In the first nine days of July, East County has asked Contra Costa County for 27 engines. County says it just cannot continue to help at that pace.
"Well, I guess they have to do what they've got to do. We've just got to be prepared ourselves I guess," one resident said.
"This is outrageous. As a citizen, I think it's outrageous. As a taxpayer, I don't care how much it costs. We need the fire departments fully staffed. We need emergency response times as quick as possible," another resident said.
"The amount of time it's going to take for us to get there is going to be significant which means there's more destruction," Marshall said.
Contra Costa County says its budget is also tight and its resources are thin so it has to use them wisely. They are going to have a parcel tax on the ballot in November and the firefighters there are hoping residents will see what happened in East County and vote to approve it.