Episode 043: Vince Wells Talks Fire Services in Contra Costa County


On this episode, I chat with Vince Wells who is the President of the United Professional Fire Fighters of Contra Costa County IAFF Local 1230. We get into a variety of topics regarding fire services in Contra Costa County and the lack of resources, possible consolidation ideas, revenue enhancement concepts, we talk about the Bethel Island Fire, aid & mutual aid services. Fire response times and much more.

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Wells did this interview as the union president and not a fire captain for Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

  • 00:53 – What is going on in Contra Costa County in terms of fire service.
  • 02:00 – With 11 fire districts in Contra Costa County, why can’t we create one giant fire district through consolidation?
  • 04:56 – Just defining the number of fire districts in the county, its confusing, is that a problem?
  • 06:58 – Property tax allocation and difference in funding levels between East Contra Costa vs. the rest of Contra Costa County. Its funded at half-the-level as the rest of the county. East Contra Costa Fire would need 6-stations to even begin discussing consolidation. What would happen if East Contra Costa Fire dissolves?
  • 16:00 – Wear and Tear of East Contra Costa Fire and Contra Costa Fire Stations in Antioch firefighters due to high number of calls. East Contra Costa Fire has 3-stations covering 250-square miles and 110,000 people and Antioch alone has 4-stations for 30-square miles and 116,000 people.
  • 20:22 – Bethel Island 2-alarm fire response as an example for aid response.
  • 27:48 – East Contra Costa Fire retention, poaching by other Districts + upcoming retirements.
  • 29:23 – How do we solve the issue of getting more fire stations in East Contra Costa Fire. Is it a parcel tax? Benefit Assessment? What about some of these other ideas? Contra Costa Fire still needs 4-5 more stations.
  • 33:52 – Wells discusses how things that “sound good” and people sound credible, but its not always correct information on social media.
  • 35:00 – Why aren’t state legislators trying to fix fire service in California?
  • 40:57 – Another idea is freezing tax allocation and giving future funding to the fire district. Another unattainable solution that is not realistic.
  • 45:30 – Volunteer firefighters and why it would not work in todays world In Contra Costa County.
  • 49:35 – Response times in East Contra Costa – Wells argues what is left out in the average response times.
  • 53:03 – Volunteer fire department and would response times be even higher? Wells highlights firefighters had to shadow volunteers to ensure a response.
  • 56:47 – Transparency in the East Contra Costa Fire & Contra Costa Fire, people still are not happy.
  • 57:30 – Why do fire engines respond to medical calls and the AMR-CONFIRE alliance and that benefit.
  • 1:05:45 – Did Wells ever imagine wearing bullet proof vests as firefighters?
  • 1:07:54 – Wells on Lewis Broschard III being appointed Contra Costa County Fire Chief
  • 1:09:40 – Where do we go from here with Fire Service in Contra Costa County and prepping for summer. Wells highlights how they are understaffed and been fighting for years for more services. Potential consolidation ideas and concepts.
  • 1:18:27 – Explanation how East County Today started by covering firefighters in Contra Costa County.

For more information on the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa, Local 1230, Visit them online at: www.contracostafirefighters.org


  1. Wow Vince. This is sad no comments concerning your cause. As a brother fire fighter we need to to try another tactic. 3 failed taxes it’s time to hold the elective officials accountable for how they spend the public’s money. Public safety first. Then let’s enjoy all the neat things. Here is a chance for the union to Stand up and really support PUBLIC SERVICE. OUR CUSTOMERS WE SERVE .


    It will be on the ballot with the tax you support. Play it smart and support both. The situation in ECCFPD needs fixed. It is unacceptable for our customers. The tax paying citizen.Your interview said before consolidation can happen you need funding. I feel bad for ECT because they could not ask the tough questions.

  2. Let me help. Here are the answers to questions you should have asked.

    Timing. The fire district has not put forth a funding proposal since 2015, four years ago. (The 2016 UUT were put on the ballot by the cities.) If/When a parcel tax is put on the ballot it will require 67% approval to become law. It is highly unlikely that this threshold will be met, given the ten reasons I have previously articulate. When the “Emergency Response for All” initiatives plan gets widespread community awareness, that may indeed be viewed as an eleventh reason the parcel tax fails. An educated voter is not a confused, unless the vote doesn’t go the way you want, I guess.
    Where did the idea originate? The idea originated at a meeting last October, organized by a then-member of the ECCFPD Board of Directors. In attendance were two members of CoCoTax leadership, the county Controller-Auditor, two members of ECV leadership, and the then-ECCFPD Board member. Several other people have come to the same conclusion about the idea being a stroke of “genius,” including one of the state’s leading initiative attorneys who is helping with this effort.
    Third Point, (Timing again). Included in the each version of the “Emergency Response for All Initiative” will be a provision to suspend implementation, should sales and property taxes fail to grow at acceptable levels. Should there be a major recession, Brentwood has a 30% Operating Reserve Fund, ECCFPD has a 20% Reserve Fund, and Oakley has a Reserve Fund as well, although I don’t know what it is. Should the economy take a dive each entity should be able to manage their way through it. Brentwood, for instance, did not touch their 30% Operating Reserve during the Great Recession of 2008.
    Timeline of funds to ECCFPD. Total Designated Expenditure (Brentwood and Oakley, not the County) The Brentwood and Oakley Emergency Response for All Acts would provide funding for “fire protection services, rescue services, emergency medical services, hazardous material emergency response services, ambulance services, and other services relating to the protection of lives and property.” (Health and Safety Code Section 13801)
    Year Amount
    1 $995,415
    2 $1,990,830
    3 $2,986,245
    4 $3,981,660
    5 $4,977,075
    6 $5,972,490
    7 $6,967,905
    8 $7,282,605
    9 $7,597,305
    10* $7,912,005
    * – and every year thereafter.

    Working together. ECV is very willing to work with ECCFPD to pursue reasonable sources of additional funding. ECCFPD has never once asked ECV to do anything, or to contribute community insight, primarily because our opinion is that given history and the facts, it is highly unlikely that any new tax will be supported by the voters to the degree required to pass. The only way forward, to increase operating funding of ECCFPD, is through a no-new-tax policy decision by the voters.

  3. Sorry I also forgot to add:

    There is no need to cut anything, since this proposal “Emergency Response For All Initiative” only slows growth.

    Neither city cuts anything.

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