Vote delayed on Contra Costa Co. fire station closures

(KGO)
December 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
People living in a number of communities in the East Bay are worried about their safety as fire stations in Clayton, Lafayette, Martinez, and Walnut Creek are at risk of closing.

No one wants a fire station near their home to close. If anything, they worry about their insurance rates going up. The board of supervisors, acting as the fire district board, was supposed to make a decision on the four stations Tuesday, but late in the day they decided they needed more information and pushed back their final vote until next week.

"I'm very concerned," Garth Jacober told ABC7 News. He lives about a half-mile from Contra Costa Fire Station 16, the only one that serves his neighborhood in the heavily-wooded west side of Lafayette. The lights have been off and the sirens silenced temporarily at Station 16 due to a mold and rat problem, but now it is one of four that could be permanently closed January 1.

"When you start doing cutbacks and you cut back on something like that, that's been here for a long time, as long as I've been here. Like I said before, they respond to a lot of things here and not having them here, it's a little disconcerting," Jacober said.

With the failure of Measure Q last month, Contra Costa supervisors must now move to close stations. The candidates include Station 16 on Los Arabis in Lafayette, Station 12 on Shell Avenue in Martinez, Station 4 on Hawthorne Drive in Walnut Creek, and Station 11 on Center Avenue in Clayton.

The Clayton station is the only one in that community of 11,000 people. "This is going to leave Clayton with absolutely no fire stations in our city," said Clayton Mayor Howard Geller. "We will be the only city in the county that does not have a fire station within our city limits."

"It means, for this area, you're going to have a delayed response and you never know when you're going to have an emergency, at what time day or night, and it could mean the difference between 5 minutes and 10 minutes," Clayton fire Capt. Ed Estrada said.

"It's a very difficult decision, but we did say we would listen to what the voters said, and they either would want us to continue the current service level or they would not approve it," Contra Costa County Superior Karen Mitchoff.

The closures will cut costs, but also increase response times countywide. The average response time now is just over 6.5 minutes. "It's going to definitely impact response times to the area around the station as well as we're going to have to wait longer for resources because they'll be coming from further away when we're on incidents that require multiple fire engines," explained Vince Wells with United Firefighters Local 1230.

The county fire chief indicated Tuesday the discussion may not end January 1. If there are no new revenue sources found, they may have to look at closing one or two more stations next fiscal year.


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