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East CoCo County Approves 3 Fire Station Closures, Layoffs

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An East Contra Costa County Fire District station (CBS)

An East Contra Costa County Fire District station (CBS)

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BETHEL ISLAND (CBS SF) – The East Contra Costa Fire District will close half of its stations and lose 15 of its firefighters next month on the heels of last week’s failed ballot Measure S, the district’s fire chief said Wednesday.

In a split 5-4 vote, fire district leaders voted Monday night to follow staff recommendations to close three stations and lay off 15 of its 43 full-time firefighters but will keep three firefighters on each engine, Fire Chief Hugh Henderson said Wednesday.

Bethel Island, Knightsen and downtown Brentwood will each lose a fire station and emergency response times across the roughly 250-square-mile fire district could double because of the station and staff shortage, Henderson said.

The chief said residents on the outer edges of the district, including Bethel Island, Discovery Bay, Byron and the Vasco Road Corridor near the Contra Costa-Alameda County line, are most likely to face longer response times under the new configuration.

The scaled-down staffing model was chosen over an alternative proposal to keep four of the district’s six stations open but only staff each engine with two firefighters, cutting 19 firefighters total.

Fire district leaders had hoped to avoid closing stations with parcel tax dollars from Measure S, which was only approved by about 44 percent of voters in last week’s election, well short of the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass.

The $197 annual parcel tax was expected to bring the district about $8 million this fiscal year alone, according to district officials.

Henderson said that without that revenue, the district is “trying to provide the best service we can with the resources we have and living within a budget that we can support.”

The fire blows in recent years as local property values fell.

The district expects to have a mere $500,000 in reserves by the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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