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Board Votes To Close Fire Station In Lafayette

Unanimous vote includes three other stations in Clayton, Martinez and Walnut Creek.

After nearly six hours of testimony Tuesday, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, acting as the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, unanimously agreed to shutter four stations, including one in Lafayette.

The closures, scheduled for next month, will save $3 million. The district is facing a $17 million deficit, and has spent its reserves. 

The supervisors' vote comes after voters in November failed to pass Measure Q, a $75-a-year parcel tax that would have prevented the closure of the stations.

Supervisors heard again from Fire Chief Daryl Louder, who presented further information Tuesday after supervisors delayed a vote on the closure last week. They also heard from residents who urged them to keep the stations open in their towns. 

"I'm concerned about emergency medical response issues," said Leonard Carp of Walnut Creek, who lives near Station 4. "A lot of people in our area are retired or older."

He joined several other residents in supporting the idea of saving money by reducing the staff of each station to two firefighters instead of the current three.

That was a plan endorsed by several Lafayette residents, including Mayor Mike Anderson, who urged the board to use that city as a test to try the two-person-per-station model. Station 16 at 4007 Las Aribis Dr, the Lafayette station targeted for closure, has been shuttered since June. Anderson said that it could mean four staff in the other two stations, until Station 16 is reopened. 

Louder and other firefighters balked at the notion of two firefighters per station, saying that it would endanger the crews and reduce response time even more than the four station closure. 

Martinez resident Cheryll Grover said that station closures should be based on where the most votes against Measure Q came from. Closing Station 12 in Martinez, at 1240 Shell Ave., would endanger residents living near the Shell refinery, most of whom are in older homes that burn faster, she said. 

"We have to close stations," Supervisor Federal Glover said. "It's
not what we want to do, and certainly not what any of us signed up to
do ... but we have to live within our means and we have to do it in a way we
feel we're go to be able to give the best quality service possible."

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff noted that the Clayton station closure at 6500 Center Ave. would leave that city without a fire station. 

"There is no right solution," she said. "There are those who say we can't afford the current system. I say we can't afford not to have the current system." 

"Frankly, it's been hard to get folks and community members at the table and to participate in solutions," said Supervisor Mary Piepho. "Now everyone wants to solve the problem. It’s been here a lot longer than the last couple of weeks."

"I hope as we go forward that you will consider Lafayette's proposal for a two-person station," Supervisor Candace Anderson told Louder.

The fire chief reminded the board that, absent new sources of revenue, addtional fire stations will need to be closed in the next few years. 

Chris Nicholson December 12, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Shouldn't the government have the obligation to get the most value out our tax dollars? Do you think that firefighter's all-in compensation is the minimum required to attract qualified employees? In the private sector, when 100 qualified candidates apply for each vacancy, you take a hard look at compensation and adjust accordingly. What is your alternative? Uncritically pay what the union requests and raise taxes as required to fund the cost? Is this how you would run a railroad?
Dive Turn Work December 12, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Good information. Thank you for taking the time to provide the numbers. The schools are getting way too much.
Steve Cohn December 12, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I'm surprised a company like AMR has not branched out into firefighting and other emergency services. This needs to remain a municipal service but that doesn't mean municipalities cannot contract their providers. I hear that Cal Fire might provide a more cost efficient alternative but I do not know if they have the capabilities to handle the wide range of incidents that ConFire does. There are lots of communities with volunteer fire departments so hiring professionals does not appear to be a legal requirement but probably a practical one in communities populated by commuting professionals who have more money than time.
Ophelia OBrien December 12, 2012 at 09:15 PM
One of the biggest challenges of the Oakland Hills fire was Oakland itself. Mutual aide responded and responded quickly, but Oakland, in its infinite wisdom, had non-standard attachments to the fire hydrants, essentially rendering the hoses of Berkeley and Emeryville et al, useless.
Steve Cohn December 12, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Just wondering what your point is. I fully agree that all regional fire departments need standardized, compatible equipment because many fires are regional events.
Ophelia OBrien December 13, 2012 at 03:33 AM
@ Steve, my post was in response to the last paragraph of his comment, "No one wants to pay taxes until misfortune hits them, then they wonder why there wasn't more help. Ask residents of the Oakland Hills in 1989 how much they really needed fire stations, then ask again in 1991." There was a lot of tragedy in the Oakland Hills fire, but there was an excellent and heroic mutual aid response by several regional fire departments that fell flat because of equipment incompatibility. So for our beer drinking buddy, Mr. Heylin, to make a blanket statement about the need for fire stations is a bit misleading and does not tell the whole story. Even if there was a fire station on top of the hills, given the wind, the narrow roads, the incompatibility of mutual aid equipment, the loss of electricity to the water pumps, the amount of vegetation encroaching on personal property, etc. the out come may not have been all that much different.
Dive Turn Work December 13, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Nothing wrong with drinking beer. It tastes good.
Quick Facts December 13, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Steve - SERIOUSLY?? the 6 million +/- that Lafayette pays, funds a total of 9 Firefighters per station for a total of 18 for the city. BUt in your little figure you didn't include things like overhead, dispatching, fire inspection, EMS Supplies, fuel, insurance. Your comments as always are misguided and inflammatory. You will never pry money out of MOFD or Con Fire to pay for roads that should come out of public works money. The "informed Citizen" - your posting is a joke, because you are quoting the Salary of the FIRE CHIEF of SAN RAMON FIRE. That pension spiking fool along with Orinda's Nowicki are not very liked by anyone in public safety for the crap they pulled in adding car allowances and other stuff that doesn't belong in a pension. Unfotunately you and Borenstein and all the other TEA BAGGERS, love to quote the jack asses that gamed the system and inflame people that are intelligent reasonable readers into believing that every firefighter gets that pension, which is just no true, PERIOD! CalFIRE will not bid on the area, and AMR does not, and never will provide Fire Protection. Lafayette Tax Payers pay 14 cents per tax dollar for fire protection. In Orinda it's 23 cents, Moraga is 20 cents, Kensington is 30 cents. Antioch pays almost 20 cents on the dollar, and Pittsburg and San Pablo pay about 5 cents on the dollar thanks to RDA's.
John Heylin December 13, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Here here!
Steve Cohn December 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM
@Quick - Settle down. Too many capital letters. You are going to have a stroke. Lafayette's property tax allocation to ConFire is about 14% of their total 1% tax which equates to about $8 million (not 6). I know that for every position in the station there are multiple shifts but what the consumer / taxpayer sees is three firefighters in the station. Yes there WERE nine firefighters stationed in Lafayette but as of Tuesday night there will now be six. $8 million dollars divided by 6 equals $1.3 million per firefighter serving the community. I did not say firefighters earned $1.3 million; I said this is what it was costing the taxpayer. Same calculation for Orinda and Moraga. I know that Kensington's tax allocation rate is the highest (30% of property tax total) but have no idea how many dollars that produces or how many firefighter positions serve the community. I agree with you that cherry picking out the worst of the worse pension spiking offenders does not tell the whole story and that people like Nowicki offend the rank and file as much as or more than the taxpayer (their excesses drain the system - someone has to pay for that) but I would expect that your union has more power over CCCERA policy than the Chiefs do. Was Borenstein wrong in last Sunday's column that the rank and file have the ability to "spike", just like the chiefs? No one has yet looked at the cost facts contained in OrindaTaskForce.org (Table IV-3) and said they were wrong.
lovelafayette December 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Anyone know of a municipality that owns, or contracts directly with, an ambulance company for medical emergency response, ambulance + paramedics from lights and sirens to simple transport? I think we need a new model. Money could be saved, and response time improved if we had only the appropriate equipment and staff respond. If I am having a heart attack, I want an all paramedic staffed, advanced life support ambulance not a hook and ladder! We do not need fire equipment and excess fire only staff (no medical training) for 85% of calls. In our Oakland medical practice if we called 911 multiple trucks would respond. Last time 8 fireman in full gear responded! I asked 4 to leave or wait in the waiting room, they agressively refused, "No, we all have to SEE the patient for it to count." Featherbedding? I talked to a local well respected ambulance service and he although he applauded the idea of ambulance only responses as cost effective, he laughed at my naivete, said in CCC politicians would never let it happen.
Quick Facts December 13, 2012 at 06:16 PM
@Love Lafayette- I appreciate your comments, however they are factually incorrect. Contra Costa Fire is 100% Paramedic Staffed at every Engine or Truck Company. This means that at a minimum there is 1 Paramedic on the Fire Engine, along with EMT -1A's that provide assistance with BLS Maneuvers (i.e.- Oxygen, Blood Pressure, Bleeding Control, Splinting, Etc.) The Fire Department Paramedics are highly trained, motivated, and collectively have many more years experience as Paramedics in Advanced Life Support. Many Fire Paramedics, have worked for many years on Ambulances, Helicopters, Emergency Room's, etc. AMR does an excellent job with their Paramedic/EMT configuration also. The system is designed for a rapid Fire First Response with ALS Providers on the FIre Engine to begin ALS Assessment and Treatment. If the medical case is complex and needs two Paramedics, the Fire Paramedic along with the AMR Paramedic, work as a team and jointly provide care enroute to the hospital. Many cases don't require the Fire Paramedic to accompany the patient, which further benefits the community by having the Fire ALS 1st Response available for the next 911 emergency medical call. It may seem more efficient in your eyes to send only an ambulance with 1 paramedic and 1 EMT, but in reality, it takes many more to run a complex medical emergency, and if the patient is obese, on a 2nd story, obtunded, etc, it takes man power to carry that person to the gurney and/or Ambulance.
Dive Turn Work December 13, 2012 at 06:31 PM
When can we outlaw fat as immoral?
Chris Nicholson December 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
@Quick: I don't think anyone is arguing that (i) firefighters, as a group, are better trained than commercial ambulance personnel or that (ii) more trained folks are better than fewer, in case you need them. As an aside, I'll note that I prefer more money than less and that Apple Pie is tasty. The issue is that the compensation and staffing model for firefighters appears unsustainable and is not an optimal use of scarce resources of taxpayers. If we rolled back the comp structure 15 years (but account for inflation), I think we would be in "fairly generous but doable" territory. I don't recall in 1997 a lot of firefighters quiting because of low comp package or an inability to recruit new qualified people. What I do recall is dozens of lawsuits by people literally suing up to the Supreme Court for the chance to get such jobs....
Steve Cohn December 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I will concur with @Quick that all firefighters are well trained in emergency medicine. At MOFD 38 out of 59 firefighters are paramedics and the rest are EMTs. (www.orindataskforce.org/tables- Table IV-3). However, for the vast majority of incidents the need for these medical skills does not extend past the first one or two responders. If help is needed to transport a heavy patient or get someone out of a compromising position, paying $235,000 - $300,000 for a strong back at a moments notice a bit pricey. There is only so much money. Unlike the federal government, the county and cities cannot print money. For every dollar spent on service A there is one less dollar for service B. If an obese patient has to wait a few more minutes for transport while the requisite personnel are rounded up, that's life. And who are these "requisite" personnel? Expand the thought process. Who has a strong back? Police officers? Public Works employees? Local school employees? Reservists and volunteers? Maybe it does not take six firefighters who cost $235,000 each which should be $300,000 if we were to start paying down their currently underfunded retirement benefit liabilities and not keep kicking that can down the road.
Quick Facts December 13, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Steve - Please take a day and go out and ride along with a busy engine company. Don't pick one in Orinda/Moraga, but pick an engine company that is going to run some calls. You will see that it takes people who are trained and physically able to even lift a 180 pound man that is unconscious, out of a bath tub, or out of a bed down the stairs. Thinking that an Ambulance crew can do that is ridiculous. I guess we are lucky in this instance that the Fire Chief makes recommendations on staffing, and the politicians usually follow them. In some of these commenters worlds, we would be spending way more dollars on injuries and disabilities, because you would set them up for failure, only giving them two people to handle a Medical Emergency. It is way to easy to sit behind your keyboard and monday morning quarterback how you think that these calls should go. In reality, when it's you or your family member having the emergency, you will be the one to scream the loudest, and demand that those resources arrive in a timely manner to handle your emergency. Please don't be so quick to label what you think constitutes an emergency, versus what the 911 caller perceives as an emergency. No one is suggesting that there is an infinite amount of dollars to cover fire protection salaries and benefits, quite the contrary. Unfortunately even given the facts of huge property tax revenue loss (32 million) the voters decided not to vote for measure Q, only $75 per year for this protection.
Dive Turn Work December 13, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I would do a ride along but only if they'll let me work the siren & maybe drive the truck. Dive. Turn. Work.
Steve Cohn December 14, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Quick - I was an EMT ski patroler for 25 years getting people with possible spine and neck injuries out of tree wells and dragging sleds through a couple of feet of wet snow. I understand tough conditions. I also understand that there are first responders who assess the situation and do the ABC's if necessary and who then call in the backup when needed; and there is the backup. Really great when 5-6 paramedics and EMTs can show up at every incident whether they are needed or not, ready for any eventuality, but at $250,000-$300,000 per person (I got a free lift ticket and 10% discount at the overpriced resort ski shop) that is a real luxury which may have seen its day. Is it better to have two guys who can "hold the fort" until backup arrives, assess the situation, do emergency first aid and keep everyone alive, or tell 15% of the community that the first responder will not be six minutes away but 12 minutes. And in a few months that 15% will become 25%. I'm sorry but I disagree with Chief Louder and with the Supervisors. I think the industry is afraid that the world will find out that 95% of the time, or more, a 2-person first-responder emergency response team is 100% effective. The last 5% guarantee is very expensive.
lovelafayette December 14, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Better idea. Paramedic policepersons. They already know how to drive really fast, faster than a fireman! and use a defribilator as they are in the police cars. They could put white coats over the LPD uniform if they were acting as paramedics. Sending them on medical calls would reduce the # of traffic and cell phone tickets and bring peace back to Lafayette.
Chris Nicholson December 14, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. Exactly. More broadly, there are MASSIVE efficiency gains possible by cross-training (and potentially combining) police/fire/medical first responders. The residential fire expert is probably not on the SWAT team and the detective is probably not going to have advanced medical training, but all first-line folks can be first responders to any generic incident, with specialists and backup available as needed. Why pay firefighters to sleep in the station when you have three cops on the streets patrolling and who can respond to 3am medical emergencies quickly, with others to follow if needed....Cops are pretty strong, they can lend a helping hand to carry me or other fat person out on a stretcher.....
Quick Facts December 14, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Steve - two person engine companies are dangerous and not effective at all. If that was the model of efficency, Cal Fire would have switched to it years ago. The NFPA recommends a team of 4 firefighters per Fire Engine and more on a ladder truck. Having 2 people is risking the lives of the firefighters and those that they attempt to save in a structure fire. You always must have an Incident Commander (someone in charge) to assess the fire, watch out for hazards, call for more resources, etc. You must always have a guy at the pump panel, to charge the hoselines, get water from the fire hydrant, cut the utilities, break some windows, etc. And finally you need a guy to operate the hoseline and put the fire out, or in a rescue the Captain and Firefighter both make entry(with a charged hoseline) and pull occupants out. The MINIMUM amount of people to accomplish that task is 3 people. I can appreciate that you put some bandages on some injured skiers with orthopedic and/or traumatic injuries, but frankly comparing that to a child choking, or a 55 year old male having a massive heart attack is silly. The old school, "hold on buddy, help is on the way" doesn't cut it anymore. The EMS Sytem in this county is high performance, and the Fire First Responder Paramedic is part of that response. The Fire Department does not exsist to run medical calls, they are a FIRE DEPARTMENT, and they respond to FIRES. Medical calls are a value added service that they provide to citizens.
Dive Turn Work December 14, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Maybe Johnny 5.0's taser could double as a defibrillator. Think of the dollars saved.
Steve Cohn December 14, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Sorry Quick, the statistics don't agree with you. If all emergencies were fires, especially structure fires, I would agree. But they are not. Here is a random (2009) year of MOFD incidents (and MOFD is probably pretty normal in its distribution) Total (excluding false alarms) 2,176 (100%) Medical 1,678 (77%) General Assistance 296 (14%) Fire 90 (4%) Including Structures 16 Vegetation 13 Vehicles 11 Cooking & Chimney 11 Others 39 Fire potential (steam, electrical shorts, etc) 75 (4%) Hazardous materials 35 (2%) Rescues 2 And even for structure fires and vegetation fires when you would like to see four on an engine, what happens if two show up on an engine and two others show up in another vehicle? I just don't see why the first two responders could not, at the very worse, do nothing until it was safe to act as a four-person team. Especially if those two groups of two could be much more effective the 99% of the time they did not have to act as a team of four. Sure it takes more time, but so does spreading out stations. I would like to see four firefighter-paramedics at every scene within six minutes of the call being placed but, unfortunately, your pricing model has made that an impossibility so we need to come up with a plan B and placing fully staffed units further and further apart so they can best deal with the 1% of incidents which are structure fire is not the best plan.
Dive Turn Work December 14, 2012 at 02:18 AM
77% medical? A rather unhealthy population or a bunch of careless people getting injured.
Dive Turn Work December 14, 2012 at 02:24 AM
According to the numbers, fire department should be largely a user fee based system. Why are taxpayers funding 77% medical calls? What is this Obummercare? Medical calls should be billed and paid for by recipient. It could be argued that firefighting services have some common benefit or good - - - > preventing a fire from spreading. Medical calls offer no common benefit or good.
Quick Facts December 14, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Contra Costa Fire does not exsist to run medical calls,public service incidents, water rescue, high angle rescue, vehicle accidents, the list goes on and on. Contra Costa Fire District is a FIRE DEPARTMENT. The sole responsibility of the fire department is to respond to FIRES. All of these other call types are value added services that the fire department provides free of charge to the public. The Staffing model is very lean for Contra Costa Fire District under current staffing models. I don't believe for one second that they should compromise their personal safety because some citizen thinks they are an "Expert" in Fire or Community Protection. Based on industry standards Lafayette should have 24 Firefighters on duty per day. With the new model having 6 on per day is already at 25% of what is recommended by ICMA. Con Fire has already suffered the very sad loss of two firefighters in the line of duty, and I am confident that the Fire Chief, Firefighters, and Board will not compromise Firefighter Safety to satisfy any political group and their aspirations. You can search across these great United States, and you will not find any expert that supports having 2 person Staffing on a fire engine. You are completely wrong and off base if you think that the Fire Department waits to rescue occupants inside a fire until a second team arrives. I personally know of several incidents where the first arriving crew rescued individuals from fire, before anyone else arrived.
lovelafayette December 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM
@quick. "The sole responsibility of the fire department is to respond to FIRES... are value added services that the fire department provides free of charge..." I can see you don't work in public relations. What an incendiary statement! FREE!?!? I personally think we receive sub-standard FIRE service from LFD. OK they do a good job of putting out fires, but it shouldn't end there! This summer there were multiple fires in Lafayette Community Park, NO fire investigation was done on any of them. LFD did not cooperate with LPD even though the identity of the Boy Scout leader who caused the BVE schoolyard fire with a rocket was known. No charges filed, responsible party did not pay for fire response and cleanup! Guess investigating fires is one of those FREE services we don't contract for? Sunnyside, Washington (16,100 pop) is one of many American who have turned ambulance services into a CITY owned utility. The ambulance is tied into the 911 service and sends the city owned and staffed ambulance on medical calls. public.www.codepublishing.com/wa/sunnyside/html/.../Sunnyside1332.html When I suggested this to council, they were unfamiliar with the concept but Commissioner Tatzin immediately rejected it as incompatible with 911. We need council to think outside the box, just a little. Lafayette needs a new commission, a public safety commission to find novel solutions to the integration of fire, police, ambulance, emergency response and public health.
c5 December 14, 2012 at 02:52 PM
that's an interesting thought, but more broadly of course what you are talking about makes sense. it is exactly what the private sector does to stay efficient in operations.
Quick Facts December 19, 2012 at 06:30 AM
I have a hard time believing your account of some suspicious fires near St. Mary's road in Lafayette. Contra Costa Fire District has one of the best, if not the best, Arson Investigation Teams in the Bay Area. The investigators follow up on all fires and respond and investigate suspicious fires immediately. If you have information on arson fires contra costa fire has an arson tip line at 866-50-arson. Investigation of fires is absolutely included in the services that Contra Costa Fire provides, along with response to: traffic accidents, rope/water/confined space rescue, vegitation fires, car fires, exterior fires, structure fires, flooding conditons, power lines down, gas leaks, hazardous material incidents, carbon monoxide alarms, children locked in cars, assistance to elderly handicapped vicitms that have fallen, Medical Emergencies, Cardiac Arrests, Anaphylaxis, Diabetic Coma, Chest Pain, Shortness of Breath, etc, etc, etc, all with Advanced Life Support (Paramedic) care, with NO BILL for services, IV's, medications, etc rendered. The private Ambulance Company, AMR will be happy to tranport you to the hospital and charge you and your insurance for the care and ride. The point that I was making is that everyone gets all tied up thinking that the PRIMARY role of the fire department is medical emergencies, and that is not the case. The reason the fire department exsists is to respond to, and supress fires and prevent loss of life or property. Medicals are value added
lovelafayette December 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
@quick. "I have a hard time believing your account .." so now I am lying?! LFD service is sub-standard. I lived in Piedmont for years,I know what a fire department dedicated to the community they serve is like. LFD DOES NOT "investigate all suspicious fires." I could't even get a fire report of the July 14 fire from LFD, I had to drive to Pleasant Hill to pick it up myself. Based on that report I know that NO INVESTIGATION into "who dun it" took place, there was no arson investigation into links to other recent fires in the park. All fires summer 2012 were immediately attributed to kids partying. Con Fire statistics are antediluvian! Con Fire has NO statistics on LFD responses to the Lafayette Community Park, all are coded by the address that called in the fire. Arson is not the issue for the BVE fire. The Parks director and the school principal stated that a boy scout dad illegally brought an incendiary device (a rocket) into the Park. It did not deploy as expected and caused a 4 acre fire. LPD Chief Christensen told me that LFD would not cooperate so no charges were filed, no charge-back of firefighting and restoration costs was possible. LFD does not communicate with residents, they have NO webpage, no PSA, no programs. Look at the LPD webpage,Chief Christensen is a great communicator,sends weekly updates to residents. Your repeated assertion that "medicals are value added" reaffirms that I am safer with AMR whose entire mission is medical.

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