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Residents Told To Take Fire Prevention Into Their Own Hands

Fire Station 12 closes Tuesday, and Martinez residents heard from fire officials Thursday night what that will look like.

Bay City News Service

Contra Costa County fire officials assured residents living near a Martinez fire station slated for closure next week that the fire protection district would continue to do its best to respond to emergencies in the area, but that response times will be longer.

At a sparsely attended meeting in Martinez Thursday night, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Chief Daryl Louder discussed the closure of Fire Station 12, located at 1240 Shell Ave. in Martinez, which is set to close on Tuesday, along with three stations in Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Clayton.

Fire Station 12 ranks in the lowest third of the district's call volume rates and is near three other stations, one of which is one mile away.

Louder encouraged residents living near the shuttered stations to take fire prevention into their own hands by keeping operational smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, clearing their property of debris and other fire hazards, and considering the installation of fire sprinkler systems.

The Shell refinery — about a mile away from Fire Station 12 — could be the site of a serious incident necessitating a quick response. Louder acknowledged that potential, but said the low number of refinery emergencies, high safety standards, as well as an on-site fire brigade make it less risky.

The stations located in Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Clayton had similar criteria, although Clayton's station, which is more isolated, will remain open for six hours each day, Monday through Saturday.

Louder also told meeting attendees that the district will strive to be as efficient as possible in responding to calls and will continually monitor response times in the areas around the closed stations.

"We're going to do our job a little bit smarter and do our job as efficiently as we can," he said.

Once Fire Station 12 closes, surrounding residents can expect to wait an additional 27 seconds on average for fire crews to respond to a call for service, the chief said.

Partnering agencies American Medical Response and Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Services have also pledged to work toward tightening their response times to emergency calls.

One homeowner who lives on the same street as Fire Station 12, Marcial Barrera, said Thursday night that he is considering taking CPR classes now that emergency responders will take longer to arrive, noting that many of his
neighbors are senior citizens.

"We're going to have to help each other out," he said.

Cheryl Grover, a resident of the unincorporated area of Mountain View, voiced her concerns at the meeting about her home insurance rates increasing due to the closed station.

The chief said he does not expect insurance costs to rise soon, but that rates could rise over time if the station remains closed.

A couple of residents tonight worried the shuttered station will affect the chances of new housing and commercial developments taking root in the area.

Louder told residents that he and other district officials would "continue working with elected officials to look at issues like development."

Although fire officials said the district will aim to provide the best protection possible to the communities most affected by the station closures, some at the meeting tonight also acknowledged that the road ahead would not be easy.

"It's going to be a challenge, to say the very least," Fire Marshal Lewis Broschard said after the meeting.

The fire district, which is already at less than 40 percent of national fire industry staffing standards, will be stretched even thinner after the closures, he said.

The closures are part of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District's plan to close a $17 million budget gap that fire officials say formed after years of falling property values and increasing personnel and operational costs.

After layoffs, eliminated positions, increased employee contributions to benefits, and other cost-cutting measures, district officials hoped a parcel tax measure on the November ballot would receive the 66-percent voter approval needed to close the budget gap. When the measure failed, Louder proposed the closures as a last resort.

"Closing fire stations was the very last option available to us," he said.

The closures mean the district will save roughly $1.6 million annually, fire officials said. Louder said at least one more fire station is expected to close in July.

The four stations closing their doors Tuesday were chosen based on an array of data including the number of calls each station typically receives, proximity to other fire stations and the level of fire threats to each community, the chief explained.
          
The fire district, which is already at less than 40 percent of national fire industry staffing standards, will be stretched even thinner after the closures, he said.

The district covers the cities of Concord, Martinez, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Antioch, Pittsburg, Lafayette, Clayton and San Pablo as well as several unincorporated areas such as El Sobrante, Bay Point and Pacheco.

Additional community meetings are set for:

  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Veterans' Memorial Building at 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette,
  • at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Walnut Heights Elementary School at 4064 Walnut Blvd. in Walnut Creek and
  • at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the community library at 6125 Clayton Road in Clayton to discuss station closures in those communities.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Lawrence Risner January 14, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I am so comforted and sleep really well at night now knowing that I live in a city with a refinery that is operating so safe that it poses no possible hazard to it's nearby residences. What a relief!!! Glad it isn't Chevron or Valero or...........
Captain Bebops January 14, 2013 at 08:00 PM
There are undoubtedly companies whose agenda it is to see that fire departments get closed so they can come in and convince the community that privatizing fire protection is the solution. This has happened around the country. As an example would you like Comcast to be your fire department? Privatizing the commons is a very bad idea but closings like this suggest that we are going down a road where that might arise. There are companies that want to privatize water as well and ones that want to privatize the police. Let's keep the commons in the commons regardless of what ignorant libertarians or conservatives think. We can work it out. I also agree we must have elected some pretty stupid legislators on both sides of the aisle who didn't understand that "booms" usually followed by "busts". They were sold a bill of goods by the crooks on Wall Street who made them believe the good times would go on forever so it would be trivial to fund high paying pensions. Of course anyone with common sense would know that wouldn't happen. Also people in office were probably afraid that if they didn't fund they would get voted out.
Patrick J. McNamara January 14, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Cheryll, I would be comforted more by your update if state pension shortfalls due to bad CalPERS investment decisions were not guaranteed by the taxpayers. If you believe that the employee + employer contributions are all that will ever be required from the (ever-dwindling private sector) taxpayers, then all I can say is I hope you are right, but I fear otherwise. There is an undeniable problem in public sector pension and benefit negotiations when the employees' negotiators (unions) are the ones who, by virtue of their billions of dollars of electoral influence, get to decide who is elected to public office to become the (supposed) negotiators for the taxpayers. Shockingly, this system has resulted in one-party rule. Shocking! Not!
Chris J Kapsalis January 14, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Just their support /endorsment alone and big signs in forunt of union halls is plenty as well. You go for who will most likely win or who you want to win to get your way, go with the money, and you get what you want. But ya, when it fails we got them home owners to bail us out or they will be unsafe. I say we say No More and say Blank you, even if we have to sacrifice, or they will continue to stick it to us..
Cheryll January 16, 2013 at 09:25 PM
@PatrickJmc: The plan/concept that employer + employee contributions along with earnings will pay for everything is valid, accurate and been in use for a long time. It is the same model that insurance companies use for life insurance and if an individual believes it will not work, then they only need to look at life insurance companies and how long they have existed to get the needed reality check that this system does work and life insurance companies have been profitable. Does the general public forget about "Contribution Holidays"? (Hint: Employer & Employee paid less or nothing), a Life Insurance company would call this a profit and does anyone believe that overall Life insurance companies are not profitable. To blame this on unions, well that is the argument of the ignorant. Those union $ to support candidates would not be spent if they didnt have to be when 15X that is spent by corporations for support of their own candidates. But they hide that fact with shell businesses and difficult to trace information. Taxpayers are on the hook for pensions shortfalls (like they are for bond payments) but the taxpayers have never had to directly pay a pension, they pay their tax contributions and don't pay when there is a contribution holiday but they have NEVER paid to make up a shortfall in a actual pension check.

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