The following Letter was submitted by East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Chief Brian Helmick.
As we start 2020 and a new decade, I’d like to take this moment to share with you our Fire District’s accomplishments during the last year (2019).
The District responded to over 7,700 calls for service within our 250 square mile jurisdiction that serves approximately 128,000 residents. Our firefighters did this with a limited staff of nine on-duty personnel assigned to three fire stations. In 2019, our firefighters faced multiple large scale fires that stretched our current resources. To list a few of them:
March: Taylor Road Fire, Bethel Island, fire destroyed 3 homes.
August: Delta Rd./Crismore Dr., Oakley, 58 acre wind-driven fire prompted evacuations.
August: Marsh Creek Road Complex, Clayton/Brentwood boarder, fire burned 757 acres requiring mutual aid of 400+ firefighters, bulldozers and air support from multiple agencies.
October: Cypress Complex, Oakley, Bethel Island, and Leon Drive off Marsh Creek, wind-driven fire burned 200 acres and prompted evacuations.
The District also started to implement our 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. This is a road map to address immediate needs and future growth in order to provide the best possible fire/EMS service to our citizens. Some of the immediate issues addressed by the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan are to enhance the District’s capital equipment plan by ordering Three Type 1 fire engines and constructing a new station in Oakley. We also developed two-track fiscal planning / budgeting models (existing revenue & new revenue), established a revenue stabilization fund. We also conducted fee studies to update the District’s cost recovery fees, update developer fees and establish a District wide community facility district (CFD). We also hired 6 new Firefighters in preparation of anticipated retirements, as well as a Public Outreach Consultant, and began the search for property to host a dedicated training facility.
The District introduced the “We are listening” campaign so we can get feedback from the community about the service challenges faced by the fire district.
For the first time in years the District is current and caught up on all Financial audits For the first time the District was awarded a transparency certification by the Special District Leadership Foundation.
Internally the District has reorganized to embrace employee ownership via delegation of programs to committees made up of the rank and file. There are many organizational committees working on training, operations, apparatus design, health and safety, technology as well as other District needs.
We are happy to announce the hiring of ECCFPD’s first Fire Marshal Steve Aubert. In 2019 ECCFPD’s Fire Bureau began doing it’s own plans checks, weed abatement and inspections, and investigations. Historically ECCFPD relied on outside agencies to provide these vital community risk reduction programs.
We started a Fire Aide Program where we hired seven aspiring firefighters part-time to assist with prevention, logistics, and operational needs.
We invested into developing programs that honored our history by hosting our first annual Volunteer fire fighter recognition ceremony in Knightsen. We also developed an Honor and Dignity Committee that supported and participated in two funerals of past volunteer firefighters, Byron Fire Chief Nick Papadakos and Oakley Firefighter Paul Urenda. These activities will continue as we will honor all past volunteers or career retired, active members and their families when they pass away.
As 2020 begins, we aim to continue educating our communities about the critical role firefighters play in keeping them safe and gain support to increase our staffing from 9 firefighters on duty per day to 18 firefighters in the shortest period possible.
This is a short list that highlights some of the Districts accomplishments in 2019 and we look forward to continuing this momentum into 2020.
Lastly, if you are one of ECCFPD 140,000 residents or a business owner in the communities of Oakley, Brentwood, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Discovery Bay, Byron, Marsh Creek or Morgan Territory please know you have access to me; as I am YOUR Fire Chief. Please let me know if you have any questions about YOUR fire District and I would be happy to work through them with you.
Thank you, have a happy and safe 2020.
Brian Helmick, Fire Chief