As Fire Season Arrives, Reduction of Services Ahead for East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

Press Release: East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

6

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 today, 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 today: 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_fire), Twitter (@ECCFPD ) or our YouTube channel (East Contra Costa Fire Protection District). ###

6 COMMENTS

  1. This was expected even though that policy has been played before in the media. The County, Oakley, and Brentwood Government need to step up and fix what they broke. Our Fire Service. Brentwood last night threw away a 5 million dollar savings due to politics yet our Fire Service continues to suffer while they waste money. A real eye opener on what these politicians do behind the scenes with your taxes. Remember that a the ballot box.

  2. ECT makes a good point. There are several fix’s available where some are not as defined guaranteed consistent funding amounts. The re-appropriations of taxes are possible. However, the ability to achieve that goal is unrealistic as no other municipal entity especially collectively would agree reduced funding resulting in a standstill of the solution. Parcel tax would guarantee a consistent revenue fund. However, the public is overtaxed already and will be a huge hurdle to pass. Remember it has failed three times already offered in different ways. This is why the creators of the problem should provide the solution to the problem with no burden to the taxpayer whom pays the same as every other person in this state. The only other solution is to make benefit assessments on all new development mandatory. This truly is a complicated problem that surely affects all lives in the district. We are fortunate to have the leadership and crew we have in ECCFPD.

  3. ECCFPD Board Comments 6-10-202​​​​​Bryan Scott
    Thank you President Oftedal, and members of the Board.
    The goal of my speaking tonight is to make Brentwood and East County a safer place to live. The hundreds of people who have participated in the efforts to increase funding for public safety simply want to make East County as safe as the rest of the county.
    We know that today this is not the case. You know the situation. You’ve read the LAFCO reports, the Grand Jury reports, the Inter-governmental Task Force report, and maybe even the CityGate reports. You know the situation, and you know that without additional funding this dangerous public safety emergency will not change.
    We, the People, have brought forward a solution to this situation. Private citizens have written a voter Initiative to serve as a funding mechanism, and have put together a draft EMS Department Program to bring about change and make Brentwood, and East County, a safer place to live, work and play.
    Other methods haven’t worked. So this this problem has gotten worse and worse. Individual government agencies have refused to collaborate to address this funding problem. State and local elected representatives have refused to take meaningful action. And as you know, three new-tax measures have failed at the ballot box.
    And so public safety in Brentwood, and East County, continues to deteriorate with each passing month.
    The voter initiative the citizens have created is part of a regional plan to increase public safety services funding in East County by nine million dollars. It is a first step to make East County a safer place to live. It is not the last step.
    The Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative was filed with the City of Brentwood in January. Signature gathering began in earnest in February. And in March, the global Covid-19 Pandemic struck, effectively shutting the work down.
    The Brentwood Emergency Response for All Initiative is a policy-setting measure. When passed by the voters of Brentwood, it will set a spending practice for the City of Brentwood that prioritizes public safety service above other municipal activities. When coupled with the EMS Department program, or some other designated services program, it will begin to make Brentwood a safer place to live.
    The draft EMS Program that implements the voter initiative is based on the premise that 70 to 80 percent of the emergency calls that occur in the region are for medical emergencies. The EMS Program targets these calls first.
    You’ve all received a copy of the Initiative, and a draft of the EMS Program, emailed to you by me, and not included in the Fire Chief’s staff report. You’ve also received a draft of an example resolution, something that one of you can propose, all of you can discuss, and then you can vote to pass it.
    These documents are the results of hundreds of citizens attempting to improve public safety services funding in Brentwood, and East County.
    President Oftedal Board and Board Members, the agenda packet includes documents associated with the 9212 Report prepared for the City of Brentwood.
    The report reflects the bias of its authors. The two consultants who prepared the report are experienced municipal managers. Together they have over 50 years of experience in the industry, and have served as City Manager of at least three cities.
    The bias this report reflects is commonly called the “status quo bias.” The report’s authors have taken our unique situation and applied common, average, experience to it.
    But our region is special, it is unique, and common experience does not apply. Nowhere else in California has a region experienced one thousand, five hundred percent population growth, with no change in emergency services funding methods. Nowhere else has the public safety of over 120,000 residents, of over 65,000 Brentwood residents, been attempted, with such minimal funding.
    The purpose of the 9212 Report is to investigate the impact of spending more city revenues on public safety services.
    The purpose of the voter Initiative, and the EMS Program, is to make the City of Brentwood a safer place to live, by providing more emergency response services to the city’s residents.
    The Pandemic has derailed the constitutional right of the people to petition the government, thus, it has curtailed democracy. California law allows the City of Brentwood to place the Initiative on the ballot, without signatures, in situations like this.
    I’m asking that the fire district board support increased funding for emergency medical and fire services in East County by passing a resolution that advocates for democracy, that advocates for an expression of the will of the people.
    I’m asking that you take action to make Brentwood, and all of East County, a safer place.
    And if you do not support the Initiative, if you do not support making Brentwood, and East County a safer place to live, work and play, if you won’t do something as simple pass a resolution, please explain why. The members of our community have a right to know.
    The voters of Brentwood and East County deserve to know why their elected fire district board members are opposed to letting the public decide to spend more of their tax dollars on emergency medical and fire services.
    We are living through a period of civil unrest, of rioting and looting, in addition to the global pandemic that has killed over one hundred thousand Americans.
    Don’t ignore the public’s demand for equal emergency medical and fire services. Please pass a resolution.
    Thank you.

  4. Discussion involving City Council,ECCFPD sought by B.W. Mayor candidate:

    Compromise needed for fire district
    funding measure to satisfy all needs

    By Ryan Raimondi, Brentwood Mayoral Candidate

    The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Board of Directors held their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday night. Along with a host of other issues, the Board spent a majority of their time (upwards of two hours) discussing East County Voters for
    Equal Protection (ECV) fire and emergency service initiative.

    The initiative would provide additional funding to the district by allocating a portion of the City of Brentwood’s sales and property tax growth to ECCFPD. After a thoughtful and sometimes intense conversation, the Board of Directors voted on two motions. The first motion called for the report of the initiative to be received and filed, which was the same action taken by the Brentwood City Council earlier on April 29th. The second motion asked for staff time to assess the pros and cons of the initiative, which failed by a 2-3 vote.

    While Bryan Scott lobbied for the Board to adopt a resolution supporting the initiative, the Directors and Fire Chief Brian Helmick expressed several concerns- sustainability and guaranteed money. If such a measure were to pass, there is no language in the initiative to ensure that the City Council will provide ECCFPD the funds year-after-year; not to mention, there is the valid possibility that Brentwood will be unable to sustain growth in tax revenue in the following few years.

    With that being said, the only proposed solution to the deficit issue, other than the ECV initiative, is a benefit assessment by ECCFPD. The concept essentially requires a professional evaluation of the district to determine what properties are at a higher risk of fire danger.

    In other words, a small one-story house that is close to a fire station would pay less than a larger two-story house located farther away. The theory is that everyone will pay an amount relative to their risk; all parts of the community are expected to do their share to protect the district. The benefit assessment is still in the works and has not been formally brought to the Board of Directors or been exposed to public opinion.

    Although the assessment is an attempt at developing a fairer tax plan, I do not see Brentwood voters supporting any sort of annual increase.

    Thus, it is frustrating to see Fire Chief Helmick advocate on behalf of a funding plan, which will be widely unpopular among voters, and not provide an alternative.

    However, it is not fair to direct our anger to his position. Chief Helmick is doing what he believes is best for the department and he is following the direction of the Fire Board. The animosity should be directed, rather, to the Board and the City Council for their lack of support.

    Nevertheless, their opposition should be respected as both entities are concerned about the potential consequences of the initiative. What should not be respected is the lack of urgency to explore ECV’s initiative as a gateway to identify alternatives sources of revenue. Instead of simply qualifying ECV’s “passion,” the district and the city should be responsible for following up and fixing their concerns with the initiative.

    ​​​​​​​If community leaders are concerned with ECV’s initiative because of a lack of sustainability, then stating that there are issues is not enough- they need to take steps to resolve those concerns with ECV so that the initiative is appealing to all parties involved.

    ECV, the Fire Board, and the City Council must be equally prepared to compromise and concede that no measure will be perfect. Fortunately, the conversations I have had with ECV, Fire Board, and City Council officials appear as though a compromise could be in order if we are able to arrange a sit-down. I am hopeful that such a meeting will occur and we can begin to confidently support an innovative measure produced by each facet of our community.
    ​​​​​​​# # #

    ​​​​ “East County Voters for Equal Protection” is a non-partisan grass roots citizens’ action committee formed to address the issue of unequal funding of fire and emergency medical services existing in 249 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. About 120,000 residents, as well as those who work and play in Eastern Contra Costa, have services funded at a level one-fourth to one-third of those levels in other parts of Contra Costa County. For more information contact committee Chair Bryan Scott [email protected]. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/ FPPC – 147914
    East County Voters for Equal Protection
    1300 Crescent Dr.
    Brentwood, CA 94513
    925-418-4428

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