BRENTWOOD (CBS SF) – A Brentwood fire station reopened its doors Wednesday morning just in time for an early start to the fire season, fire officials said.

Fire Station 54, located at 739 First St. downtown, is back in service after declining property tax revenues in the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District prompted a 10-month closure, Fire Chief Hugh Henderson said.

“I think everybody’s happy to be back at work and back in the community,” he said.

The chief said the station’s reopening means six more people will be on duty at all times, boosting the district’s service capacity by 20 percent. He said having an additional station is expected to reduce the district’s emergency response times by about 40 seconds on average.

A $7.8 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant awarded to the district last summer made the reopening possible—but Henderson warned that it’s only a temporary fix.

Without additional revenue or renewed grant funding, the downtown fire station will be forced to close its doors again in November 2014, the chief said.

“We still have to have a long-term fix to the problem because we can’t rely on grants to provide the service to the community,” he said.

Henderson said the district’s board of directors is mulling the idea of proposing another parcel tax, even after a similar ballot measure was rejected by 56 percent of district voters last June.

The measure’s failure led to the closure of the downtown station along with the district’s Knightsen and Bethel Island stations.

The Knightsen station reopened last November using the FEMA grant funding, but the Bethel Island outpost is not expected to reopen, according to the chief.

Wednesday’s station reopening came hours after the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for much of the Bay Area because of extremely strong winds and low humidity coupled with plenty of dried-out grass and vegetation following a dry winter.

Henderson said dry brush throughout the 250-square-mile district, which includes Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island, Knightsen and Byron, is primed to burn quickly.

(Copyright 2013 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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