BRENTWOOD (KPIX) — The city of Brentwood and some smaller communities in east Contra Costa County are expected to endorse a plan to merge their fire department into the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. Experts say the merger would provide better 911 response times.

Although the population in east Contra Costa County continues to go up fire services have been going down. That’s why Brentwood mayor Joel Bryant and his city council intend to pass a resolution Tuesday to endorse a consolidation plan.

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“This is desperate, this is desperate times that we’re trying to take care of,” mayor Bryant said.

Councilwoman Karen Rarey agrees.

“We are in a crisis mode,” she said.

Councilwoman Rarey says recent budget cuts have left the eastern portion of the county with more fire stations that are empty than ones that are staffed. There are six vacant stations — one of them brand new. Just three stations remain active.

A total of nine firefighters respond to calls coming from an area that’s as large as San Jose and Oakland combined, almost 250 square miles.

“We need to do something,” Rarey said. “We cannot continue in this mode any longer.”

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The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District reports that, in December, the average 911 response time in Brentwood was 7 minutes 42 seconds. The farther away, the longer the wait. For example, in Bethel Island the average response time was 16 minutes and 34 seconds.

Brentwood resident Bryan Scott, who spoke on behalf of East County Voters for Equal Protection, pointed out that a heart attack patient can’t wait that long.

“I’m a little helpless, quite frankly and I think a lot of my neighbors — a lot of people out here — feel the same way,” he said.

“Just one minute of delay can cause significant problems, even perhaps death,” mayor Bryant said.

Their solution is to consolidate with the neighboring Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, also known as Con Fire.

One study shows a merger would immediately decrease response times. A second feasibility study is underway. A previous consolidation plan was struck down because of money problems but this time people we spoke to believe it will succeed.

“Any consolidation effort should be based on solid financial footing and we’re pretty confident at this point that the numbers seem to be adding up,” said Steve Hill Con Fire public information officer.

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If everything goes according to plan, the consolidation could happen in early 2022.