ECCFPD: New Hires Nearly Ready to Serve


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East County will soon have the temporary benefit of our fifth fire station in Brentwood re-opening in early May; however, 11-new hires must first go through a grueling 8-week training program that will prepare them for job of ensuring top notch public safety to the District.

These recruits are learning everything from basic District protocols, to  CPR, to rolling up hoses, to running mock fire calls. They also are given a two-hour military style workout each morning to get in top shape before serving the community.

Chief Hugh Henderson stated the District has gone the extra mile to make sure the new personnel have a good training orientation and are prepared to go to work safely and serve the community. It’s important to remember that because of the Grant and resources, ECCFPD will not be providing a traditional basic academy, but rather an orientation.

“Our new firefighters have their state certified firefighter one and emergency medical technician as part of their basic requirements. The eight week orientation allows them to brush up their skills and learn the way the district operates,” said Chief Henderson.

The application process started back in November of last year where 353 applicants were screened and over the course of an application process, the 11-best applicants were chosen after written examinations, background checks and medical exams.

This came after the District was able to hire back a handful of employees who were temporary laid off after voters ridiculously voted down Measure S—these re-hires ensured the Knightsen Station was open quickly in November after the District was working on a three-station service model. It’s important to remember that with the temporary FEMA Grant, we are still only going to operate just 5 of our 8 stations.

“All of our new firefighters have experience from working with other agencies either as full-time firefighters or volunteers. They all have a strong commitment to providing service for the community/district,” said Chief Hugh Henderson.

Henderson said that these new recruits bring “energy” and “excitement” to the District.

Captain Gil Guerrero, also vice president of Local 1230, pointed out that the training is relatively shorter compared to the average 16-week academy run throughout the county. He pointed out that while the new guys coming on are a benefit, they are starting over because they were unable to re-hire firefighters who took jobs elsewhere.

“We are cramming 16-weeks into 8-weeks of training. Instead of guys who have been here for years that we lost during the layoffs, we have guys with 8-weeks of crammed training. The guys that had been here for years knew how it all worked, the recruits have to now learn the diversity of the district and how everything works and that takes years to master,” explained Guerrero.

In speaking with Battalion Chief Brian Helmick, he explained that it’s like a second full-time job making sure everything is ready to go for the instructors each day. Due to lack of staffing levels with the District, he drives to and from the training facility twice a day for oversight and prep.

He estimates he and his other instructors have put in additional time to ensure the training/orientation is a success. Helmick and others state that it’s worth it to ensure guys are properly trained.

Although the orientation is just 8-weeks, Helmick explained how the District has improved from its 10-day orientation. In addition, the District will be able to continue to mold and train the new-hires as probationary firefighters over the 18-month probation period.

At the training facility, East County Today had the opportunity on March 28 to observe Battalion Chief Jeff Burris, Captain Gil Guerrero, firefighter Jimmy Laughlin , and Engineer Greg Baitx train the 11-recruits.

This particular day focused on rolling hoses, practice drills, mock “carol lane” drills in the four-story building.

“The challenge is not having enough instructors for the recruits available,” said Guerrero.

The District is typically working on a 4-student to 1-instructor ratio on most days, however, on March 28,  they were working on a 2-student to 1-instructor ratio due to the trainings that day which included  training on hoses, nozzles and fittings. They also did mock rescues in the training tower.

When challenged on the ratios, it was explained that fire safety is not a typical education. You front load the effort in training to save a lot of pain later. If there is not proper oversight, it could cause issues during an emergency situation.

“You have more students to instructors. If they develop bad habits in training, they think its okay in the field because no one pointed it out. The point of training is to create good habits,” said Battalion Chief Burris. “We have to make sure we are putting out a good product because that is what we are known for.”

To give this problem some perspective, out of Boise,  reported that on a March 28  live fire training exercise, their 16-recruits had been training for 20-weeks before testing on a live home fire. They also report that there are almost as many captains and chiefs as there are recruits to supervise.

Unfortunately, ECCFPD does not have this luxury due to our the budget restrictions.

According to Burris, at this point in time, the recruits are doing very well. Helmick echoed Burris thoughts by stating “we have a good group of recruits” coming on Board.

“The excitement is getting another station open and another engine company on the streets. It benefits not only the community, but the safety for the firefighters and other public safety officers as well,” said Battalion Chief Brian Helmick.

Here are some photos I took from the March 28 Training Day at the Concord Facility.


  1. Great picture, I think every sentence in this piece should have been “temporary” in it because it will go away in Nov. 2014. Great effort is being put into this training and it’s a shame the District may not be able to keep the new hires. Voters better change their minds next time around.

  2. I dont think people are looking down the road at you guys get brentwood back and then what? What happens when the grant is over? The board needs to get off their butts and do something. Even the training these guys receive is short. It’s sad that a place like Boise, ID is getting more than double the training East County is getting.

  3. Very nice Burk, I love the pictures and can’t wait to see them serving soon. What do you mean we have 8 stations and only 5 are open?

    • 2 in Brentwood, 2 in Discovery Bay, 1 in Byron, 1 in Oakley, 1 in Bethel Island.1 in Knightsen . 4 are closed-Bethel Island, Byron, one in Disco Bay and the downtown Brentwood (which is going to reopen in May)

      • Oh, forgot the Sunshine Station on Marsh Creek Rd. I guess you could say that its a part-time ECCFPD station.

        • Now lets see if I can remember the station numbers Disco Day 59 & 58, Byron 57? Brentwood 52 & 54 (the old East Diablo Fire) 95 Bethel Island, 93 Oakley & 94 Knightsen (the old Oakley Knightsen Fire)

  4. More propaganda from Burkholder to try and pass a future parcel tax. I can appreciate the new recruits, but clearly a biased piece.

  5. I’m not sure that Burk reporting on facts can be labeled “propaganda”. Bobby, it sounds like your mind is made up and you don’t want to be confused with the facts. You should probably stop reading Burk’s website.

    Back on the subject; it is rather unfortunate that we are getting undertrained firefighters from what sounds to be, below industry standards. This probably puts everyone at increased risk, including the seasoned firefighters they will be working with. It’s really too bad they don’t have the time to get the regular training they deserve.

    On the positive side, I am glad the district was able to hire and make an attempt to get things going again. Running this district with less firestations is just unacceptable. I am very anti-tax but have come to realize that we were never paying what we should have been paying towards the firedepartment. The worst part of this all is there are some that feel we should be getting full services without paying for them.

    They say “Stupid should hurt”, and if our fire stations are not re-opened it most certainly will.

    The firedistrict leaders better get on track or we are going to go backwards once again-very soon. As I understand it, this is a temporary fix.

  6. This is good infomation because Ive heard nothing about the District except when knightsen opened or the bethel island house burned. Glad to see more troops are coming in to help ensure safety. The only propaganda I read was the authors comment regarding Measure S and the author was very correct because it was ridiculous! I like the photographs.

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