Home Opinion ECCFPD in Need of a Marriage Counselor or Consolidation is a Must

ECCFPD in Need of a Marriage Counselor or Consolidation is a Must

by ECT


The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is like a bad marriage which it can’t seem to fix or find a common ground with the communities it serves to improve the overall atmosphere.

Going back 12-years, the marriage was not done out of love, but rather was like an arranged marriage out of convenience in the name of “local control” from Contra Costa County.

To make matters worse, in a shot-gun style wedding, it was done under an old model of consolidation which never merged districts by regionalization—meaning Antioch and Pittsburg should have been included.

Twelve years later, money and communication problems are quickly pushing the District towards a divorce with East County. The District has a revenue problem thanks to the housing collapse and has dropped from 8-stations down to 5-stations—soon to be three stations after recent polling highlighted a June Tax measure will likely fail.

Without a tax passage in June, the District will be reduced to three-stations Nov. 18.

Worse than a money issue has been the Districts inability to successfully communicate with the people they serve to share just how bad things are within the District.

For starters, while the SAFER Grant re-opened two stations, it also delayed the urgency to educate the public on the Districts future—meaning, while the fire Board was meeting, however, there was little to no outreach with the public. The Grant also ensured the public felt no change in service levels so the community had little opportunity to realize the impacts of a reduced station model.

I also would like to add that the firefighters have worked their butts off to ensure the public has felt as little pain as possible. Under a three-station model, it’s next to impossible that little pain will be felt because it will be a lot of pain.

Today, the District is now at a crossroads on where to go. Some want a long-term fix while others suggest a Band-Aid approach. The problem is neither will occur because there are too many personalities in East Contra Costa County to allow for progress.

If you look at the six communities the District serves, all have different ideas, personalities, opinions, and motivations going forward.

  • Bethel Island – any discussion on fire service begins and ends with them getting their station back. Without a firehouse on the island, any solution is a non-starter.
  • Brentwood – Brentwood has the most calls for service and any additional revenue that is paid into the District should first be returned to Brentwood services. They are stuck on a “return to source” requirement.
  • Discovery Bay – They already pay the highest in the District and with a tax they would receive no increase in service. They are not going to approve more funding when two of the three stations that used to service their area remain closed. If they are not going to gain additional service, it’s a non-starter.
  • Knightsen – They are still living in the past and feel hurt that the volunteer firefighters were taken away. Any discussion on future fire services in their minds includes volunteers in one form or another.
  • Oakley – They have little urgency because they are happy with their one station. They get help from surrounding communities due to central location.
  • Morgan Territory – Step child treatment praying there fire services are not further taken away.

These personalities, neither right or wrong,  do not even include the firefighters/Local 1230 needs, city leader needs, or the Board of Supervisors requirements.

As you can see, it’s not a district wide approach because the public is not educated about the District; instead it’s an individual community approach which will always prevent success and ensure failure because there is no give-and-take.

This creates a rocky marriage that local leaders have ignored. Most fail to address it because it’s an unpopular topic and there are no winners.

With the exception of Joel Bryant, local leaders couldn’t wait to jump off the fireboard and have run as far away as possible from trying to solve the Districts problems since going to an appointed Board.  But a telling stat is neither Brentwood, Oakley or Discovery Bay has had an in-depth discussion about its future fire service in over a year.

If local leaders won’t address the elephant in the room, how is the community supposed to know there is a problem? How is the community supposed to know the history of the District and its problems?

Like a bad marriage, if you ignore the problem for so long it’s difficult to fix. Rumors start to re-create history while false information becomes truths in the minds of people—example of this is salary and pensions are to blame for financial problem when the reality its Prop 13 and the allocation of those funds and the housing market crash.

It all begins with communication and when I hear that local leaders were never made aware of or were personally invited to outreach meetings by fire district—that is troubling. Another way to look at that is if local leaders are not aware how is the public to know?

That is why in 7-outreach meetings, just 144-people showed up which doesn’t include folks who attended multiple meetings so the number is actually lower. That is not a good turnout in an area of over 100,000 people.

While the concept of the District was great in allowing six-communities to share service without solely being financially responsible, it’s no longer working.

Maybe the time has finally come for the District to split up and file divorce paperwork. Under that scenario, Brentwood and Oakley would have a legal obligation to provide fire services while the County does not.

One example provided to me just last night was the idea of trying to combine the Knightsen-Bethel Island culture with that of Brentwood and Oakley being counterproductive—trying to find a solution works for one but not the other and nothing would ever pass a vote of the public because what is acceptable to one community is not acceptable to another.

Under a divorce, Brentwood and Oakley could fund their Fire Departments through a General Fund and voters in each city could decide how much service they want to pay for. Both cities could also go the route of contracting out services with Contra Costa County much like Oakley does with the police department.

Under this scenario, those 12-15 police officers Brentwood wanted to hire would essentially become firefighters.  Oakley who wants to become its own police department would likely have to hold off.

If local leaders in either city are paying attention, they would quickly realize from a financial standpoint of their cities, ensuring ECCFPD remains solvent is probably in their best interest to share the cost—which is why they should have been communicating with the public from the start.

Of course, the other solution is ECCFPD and CONFIRE consolidating into one—but that is a slow process and East County would likely be stuck with a three-station model for several years.

Going forward, if the District truly wants to save its marriage with East County, an open line of communication and public outreach needs to begin immediately because it’s headed towards a break up.

While I certainly can relate to the feelings Board President Joel Bryant recent comments  when he refers to not having blood on his hands in closing stations where loved ones will die, he can preach that all he likes, but until the community is the one saying it instead of him, nothing will change.

For East County, consolidation may be the only way out of a bad marriage.

Burk Byline

By Michael Burkholder
email me

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JimSimmons42 Feb 9, 2014 - 7:47 am

interesting opinion. Will never happen because of the allocations CONFIRE vs. ECCFPD gets. I will agree with you that communication has to improve.

Bruce Feb 9, 2014 - 8:05 am

The Entire county should be one department, that would allow for lower costs and less upper management overall.

Luke Feb 9, 2014 - 8:32 am

I am all for one less special district in California. It makes a lot of sense to have one district for the county and to share ALL resources. Instead of wasting time with a band aid lets move towards real solutions. Lets also ensure our firefighters keep their jobs.

Don Flunk Feb 9, 2014 - 8:38 am

When in doubt, get Burkholder to stir the pot. I think he made it pretty clear the District has big problems. Until EVERYONE is talking about this issue nothing will get accomplished. I feel bad for the firefighters who are stuck in the middle working their butts off. I think the District can be saved but it will take a lot of time. The Board and City leaders need to work together instead of two different entities. Remember to the city councils that you appointed these people. Work with them, don’t stick your heads in the sand.

Howard Feb 9, 2014 - 9:02 am

I have no idea how all things developed as you describe but the public over the years since consolidation and getting ride of The volunteers thank to union don’t get me wrong unions help get decent wages. The volunteers could have utilized to help keep coast down. The fire district should put out a news letter to keep public informed. Fire allotments of dollars taxes need to be addressed.

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 9:58 am

Howard, volunteers have their place in rural America but east county outgrew that model long ago as it is now urban to suburban. The numbers of volunteers and applications of such were already dwindling when the district evolved to a paid department.

No longer can “Johnny” speed through the streets is his white pickup to get to the fire station.

The streets have become populated, the job has become technical, the liabilities have become great, the training has become required, the applicants have become few and the logistics have become insurmountable. However for whatever strange reason a few people like yourself continue to believe some mystery force (other than yourself) will fill those boots. Please stop clouding the discussion with something that is not an option. Your fellow bloggers, neighbors, politicians, firefighters and administration would appreciate it. The time has come to stop reminiscing about what isn’t.

Righteous in the 'Wood Feb 9, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Howard, the polite way to say what ECV is saying is that most if not all of the viable candidates that would be eligible to perform those duties by and large work outside of the region and thus would not be available to function effectively as fire fighters. He is also saying that the ability of a volunteer fire fighter to rapidly respond to a fire or other emergency in a personally owned vehicle is not a safe option due to the density of our community and the people that are sure to be in the path of the volunteer. Finally, what he is imploring to you is to seek out that information on your own, and not to bother joining in any discussion on this subject, nor ask any amplifying or clarifying questions, because it is beneath him to entertain any questioning of his vast reservoir of superior knowledge and intellect on this subject in order to educate the neophytes in our community, so why don’t you just scurry along little knave.
In other words, it is just his nature, he is a Dick.

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 1:11 pm


Nailed it! Repeating what has already been repeated, is just a waste of time-here and on every other thread. Don’t you have some other distraction to raise or a new conspiracy theory to float? Now run along you little Dick.

jb Feb 9, 2014 - 9:07 am

When the ccc supervisors tossed the eccfpd hot potato folks who could understand the real situation went to those first meetings and quickly suggested that both eccfpd and con fire go away and a NEW (larger – more leveraged), modern, first responder force be developed. That new force would have to function within its means so that would call for former con fire people who choose to work for this agency to earn less and former eccfpd people maybe earning a bit more. This new agency would be geared heavily toward serving medical calls and the county would have to cut from other areas to provide more medical call related resources for those who pay taxes day in and day out.

And why would it take years to implement a new agency …… only because the unions would get in the way and the politicos are not make it happen people. Both road blocks would be at the expense of the employees and the people who live in or spend time/money in the areas to be served.

This change will happen in ccc ….. the question is will be happen the hard way and take a long time or will the process start now and will it be a straight forward transition. The dysfunctional politicos and union bosses have already wasted 3 years ….whey let them drag this out. It will happen at some point.

JigsUp Feb 9, 2014 - 10:44 am

So in Jeff Barber’s world, the people of Walnut Creek and Concord who would be subsiding you can just go pound sand? Screw the political process and them having a say, just jam the plan down their throats tomorrow?

Since your buddies will not answer, who takes one in the back in the EMS department to fund your cheapskate plan? In other words, who loses so you can win?

JigsUp Feb 9, 2014 - 10:45 am


ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 11:14 am


In jb’s world the only rules that apply are the ones that don’t apply to him.

What he said; “…folks who could understand the real situation went to those first meetings and quickly suggested that both eccfpd and con fire go away and a NEW (larger – more leveraged), modern, first responder force be developed.”

Reality; “Folks” meaning “him” somehow magically through osmosis “understanding the real situation” suggested that the real experts disregard rules, laws and regulations and subject the county (including taxpayers) to a huge lawsuit while firing firefighters who are under contract employment. All because jb is a self appointed know it all but can’t seem to convince anyone else of his intelligence. Proving over and over he isn’t even smart enough to get out of his own way. Poor schmuck.

He is still the same stupid shit “bag” (Bald Angry Guy) even though he resides a thousand miles away. Gotta love the internet.

Michelle B Feb 9, 2014 - 10:13 am

I would like to know why Brentwood and Oakley would have a legal obligation to provide fire services while the County does not. I thought Brentwood tried this years ago and it couldn’t be allowed. Not sure I agree with that statement.

JigsUp Feb 9, 2014 - 10:35 am

When cities incorporate they typically include fire services as part of their charter. I can’t speak to both of them having that for sure, but if they didn’t that would be an exception rather than the norm.

The County, which controls the unincorporated areas, has no such mandated coverage. It then defaults to the State’s Constitution, which also does not mandate the service.

The Brentwood situation from a couple years ago was different. In order to form or modify a special district such as ECCFPD, one needs LAFCO approval(a state level agency). LAFCO would not approve Brentwood or Oakley abandoning this District. You also have to remember that Brentwood could not do it alone. Standards today require 5 engines or 15 people on a single alarm structure fire. The cost to build a 5 engine or 5 station District within the city would not be trivial.

ECVsbrother Feb 9, 2014 - 11:58 am

ECT (as some of the unrealistic would claim) has stirred the pot? I disagree. ECT has finally discovered the only realistic solution.There are so many variables that keep this district from moving forward. BTW though Discovery Bay does not pay the highest tax for fire service. That award goes to Bethel Island, the one without the station. Anyway, everything realistic leads to a Con Fire merger as the solution. The constant bickering, name calling, blaming, and dividing on here by everyone shows there is no future as is stands now. The merging of east county and Con Fire is not something new as it was tried before. It would have succeeded if it were not for Oakley, Knightsen, and Bethel Island in unison support of their system of POCs at the time.
The communities were satisfied and supported the model. That did not stop Riverview ( Antioch Fire ) from actually merging.That is why Con Fire is there today. It needs to be noted ( for some of subject freaks on here that will go 5150 ) that the tax rates for Riverview and Con Fire were different at the time but the county worked that out. That merge has been successful since.

This is an observation, I don’t care if any of the blog freaks like it or not. I do not care if they show their elementary IQs with negative comments towards me it really doesn’t matter because they live in an adolescent fantasy world and thee subject is not about personalities.

Here are several controversial subject reasons that back the claim to the only final solution that is actually good for the firefighters, the union, East County, and potential volunteers.

These examples do not mean I agree or disagree.T hey merely show the confusion and division East County communities have on this subject.

We are in an area that is both rural and urban with only an urban approach at fire suppression.

We have several different amounts of revenue contribution between the different areas

We have a pro union stance and a right to work or volunteer stance split within the public

We constantly fight within the different opinions with no chance of compromise

We have a revenue problem that has not been aggressively reversed by actions

There is a difference in service needs but not a different in service applications for each area

Everyone wants to run the district and political influence is affecting success by division

All government entities east of Antioch or Not on the same page for solutions

No identified true leadership with ultimate power has been exercised to its fullest

Too much union intervention in managing the district has been allowed

Parts of the rural area continue to support reserves and/or volunteers

The last minute fix approach has been warn out

Merger will be the only last solution because;

The leading fire agency in the county is Con Fire

It was done before

The union will get its acceptable result

The fire fighters will get the pay deserved

Con Fire accepts volunteers

Combining resources eliminates some duplication

The communities will support it now

A county sales can reduce the burden and has shown support

Con Fire has all the supporting resources that currently are purchased by ECCFPD

The County has an obligation to allow it revenue disparity or not as it has been done before.

Revenue is on the way back due to housing price increases and construction. 21% housing price increase, several hundred new homes under construction. Con Fire has the ability to finance until the increased revenue is realized.

ECT is not stirring any pot in my opinion. He is doing the public a favor by exposing the reality of this situation based on his observations. We will all see what happens on this subject in the not too distant future.

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 12:48 pm


Hope you didn’t waste too much time on that. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. You seem to have some guttural desire that will remain unfulfilled. You have created much of the confusion on this topic as well as others in your efforts to re-write history and put out bad info. You still don’t get it……probably never will. Shame.

Bobby Lott Feb 9, 2014 - 12:58 pm

Writing to be read against burk?

Bobby Lott Feb 9, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Writing to be read again Burk? sorry for the typo

EastCountyToday Feb 9, 2014 - 1:03 pm


Isn’t that the point of a website? To be read and provide information?

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 1:13 pm

Couldn’t we say the same about you Bobby?

ECVsBrother Feb 9, 2014 - 3:03 pm

ECV, If you have nothing constructive to contribute STFU. It is you that only respond by attacking a personality and opinion without contributing anything to the subject. Grow up fool and join the solution instead of expanding the division of everyone or just STFU.

JigsUp Feb 9, 2014 - 3:24 pm

There’s the Knightsin(sic) hothead we know so well! So you don’t get the point of a blog either, just like your buddy Bobby?

Isn’t telling someone who disagrees with you to “STFU” an act of “attacking a personality and opinion without contributing anything to the subject”?

If the hypocrisy shoe fits………

Here’s a shot to further the dialog, Johnny. What are the downsides to the volunteer program you keep pushing?

Real leaders are not afraid to address both sides of the issue. So what’s your excuse?

ECVsBrother Feb 9, 2014 - 5:07 pm

You don’t even know who your blogging with Jigs and the rest of your names bro. But it doesn’t matter. I could care less if someone disagrees. That is healthy and part of the process to reveal a solution. Do you even know what hypocrisy is? A disagreement is certainly not even close to the meaning.Your constant personal attacks that are directed to intimidate only hinders the process. You do not even know who your attempting to intimidate as you and few others just want to attack blindly for no logical reason other than to be self climactic.That kind of participation may be entertaining to yourself but its getting old.So stick to contributing to the subject matter or STFU. It’s not complicated.If you want to help with a solution fine. Sabotage to the entire blog is not.Thus my comment and exactly why there is no other choice but merge with Con Fire.

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 8:30 pm


Hope you didn’t waste too much time on that. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. You seem to have some guttural desire that will remain unfulfilled. You have created much of the confusion on this topic as well as others in your efforts to re-write history and put out bad info. You still don’t get it……probably never will. Shame.

*you weren’t worth my time to spend writing another post.

ECV Feb 9, 2014 - 8:29 pm


Hope you didn’t waste too much time on that. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. You seem to have some guttural desire that will remain unfulfilled. You have created much of the confusion on this topic as well as others in your efforts to re-write history and put out bad info. You still don’t get it……probably never will. Shame.

*you weren’t worth my time to spend writing another post.

David Villareal Feb 9, 2014 - 2:43 pm

So, The district divides and the city has their own fire departments, Oakley has one fire engine, Brentwood has two. How does this really help anything. It takes more than one engine to fight a fire..As a matter of fact..according everything I have read it takes at least 5. The other areas may very well be left without any fire protection. It sounds like a very short sited theroy.

As far as consolidation..Has anyone actually read the board minutes. There were 5 agences approached and asked if they would be willing to consolidate. They ALL said no. They don’t want the extra expense and the money from their current distrcts would be funnelled away from their primary area to ours. I am not sure their tax base would be very happy with that, Just as we wouldn’t be if our tax dollars were being siphoned away to provide service to another area of the county.

There is no easy solution, If there is anyone to blame about this it would be the legislators and the registered voters from 1978. They voted in prop 13(And I applaud that) if they hadn’t our property taxes would be sky high. It has just resulted in some other consequences.

Keith Feb 10, 2014 - 12:23 am

I have seen this in the pipe for many years…..
Brentwood should have had taken over its own fire service many years ago especially after the Apple hill development. If Brentwood took its own fire service over and ran it correctly it would have been a very strong department with ambulance service. Anyhow they now have their big phallic symbol of a city hall and poor quality water….

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