BRENTWOOD (BCN) — One of Brentwood’s two fire stations is set to close temporarily due to a lack of funding and a dwindling staff, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District officials announced.
The fire station located downtown at 739 First St. will shut down on Sept. 1 following the expiration of federal grant funding being used to keep the district’s five stations open, according to fire Chief Hugh Henderson.
“Based on our current budget, staffing levels and the impending expiration of our federal SAFER grant, four stations is the level of service we can afford to provide,” Henderson said.
The chief said the fire district will “do everything we can” to maintain quick emergency response times and to reopen the fire station as soon as possible.
The district’s staff has continued to shrink as firefighters have left for more stable, higher paying jobs elsewhere, Henderson said.
With 10 staff vacancies, one fire captain recovering from an injury and one firefighter serving active military duty, the fire district’s remaining firefighters have had to work 160 overtime shifts in July alone, according to Henderson.
“Our firefighters are already paid 25 percent less than those in neighboring departments that also provide superior job security,” he said.
“The hours that they have been working to keep five stations open are unsustainable and possibly a risk to public safety in East County,” he said.
Fire district officials are hoping voters will approve a November ballot measure proposing a fire suppression benefit assessment to be paid by property owners within the district.
If the measure fails, the district expects the downtown Brentwood station to stay closed and another of the district’s remaining four stations to be shut down by the end of the year, Henderson said.
Like many neighboring fire districts, the ECCFPD gets most of its revenue from local property taxes and was hit hard by the Great Recession.
Since that time, the district has had to permanently close its station in Bethel Island, temporarily closed two of its five remaining stations for four months and laid off 15 firefighters while waiting for federal grant money to come through.
The district covers a wide swath of East Contra Costa County including Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen and Byron.
(Copyright 2014, Bay City News, All rights reserved.)