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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.

Pittsburg Gal January 11, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Well, does that mean their tax bills will be lowered since there will not be a need to fund these local fire departments?
Captain Bebops January 11, 2013 at 07:07 PM
And if the departments are privatized your yearly "fire protection" bill will be far more than what your tax bill for providing such protection would be. Be we know Tea Partiers aren't particularly good at math (or about anything else other than whining). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_Ed6SlrUYQ
Lawrence Risner January 11, 2013 at 07:29 PM
The problem with taxes is they never go down or go way - once enacted all they ever do is go up. I still haven't heard anyone say that the retirrement costs are being addressed and that is one big expense that is going to grow expotentially and increasing taxes is not the answer because the tax payer well is dry.
Cheryll January 11, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Retirement expenses have been addressed by the governor's pen. AB340 provides that employees hired after 1/2011 will not have the same level of retirement that previous employees have bargained for. And of course that means they won't be CONTRIBUTING to their retirements at as high a level as those who came before. None of that will fare well for future retirees and the economy but thats a bridge to cross when it comes. Some employees get far more lucrative retirement and benefit packages, but those things were supported by the Board of supervisors because they "need to lure employees here" for those positions. I for one, have never bought that theory and feel people come to certain jobs and certain areas because they have roots & other concerns involved, and shouldn't be primarily about the benefits or wages. But that doesn't mean people shouldn't be compensted fairly, and fire fighting is one of those that reach the top of the list for risking life and limb on a daily basis. That should be worth something.
Cheryll January 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM
While that (growth of the original tax) is a commonly heard complaint, the truth is a tax measure that has a set date can only be reinstated by voter approval. It's not magic, its effort to pass a tax measure. If it is extended by voters then you have to recognize that voters decided it was a good idea, again.
Cheryll January 11, 2013 at 10:26 PM
The cryinhg/whining thing is funny. Although I dont consider special districts "privitizing". Not sure if that's what you meant..
Cheryll January 11, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I would agree with that in that one segment of society should not be paying for OTHER segments services, which is what happens when they close existing stations. Problem is, everybodies tax bill already did go down, so they are ALL paying less. Arguably, one could also equate that the people whose homes cost the most, are saving the most in property taxes, yet they were the loudest voices against a $6 a month increase in taxes to save fire stations. Go figure. But Mt.View residents actually voted unaimously for Measure Q. There are so many elements of unfair in this. But with closures being the "preferred" option by the Board of Supervisors, no fire station is safe. "Privitization" as the Capt. says, would be a better option than closure, but we are not being given any options or opportunity to be involved in the process that hurts us. Beware Pittsburg...
Chris J Kapsalis January 12, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Property taxes did not go down when you add in a lot of these people lost their life's savings when the property values dove. Or lost their homes even due to the economy. Some people are hanging by a thread right now losing their homes. Now hit them more because they pay less tax? Isn't that like kicking them when they are down? Expecting them to pay for others problems? When they are already paying and have paid so much in property taxes, to even pay for science equipment. Our city has an emergency fund. Bout time to use it I feel. Not hit home owners again. And again, until they lose their homes. At some point it Has to end. I feel that time has came and gone. We cannot keep doing this, over and over. It will ruin people. We keep asking the people to bail out others incompetence. Please stop, or they will never stop passing the buck. This time they will make us pay by being more unsafe, and ask yourself, who caused this problem? The people? Home owners? Or others. Why should the people then fix it and pay for it?
Lawrence Risner January 12, 2013 at 03:55 PM
I don't buy the "higher the pay, the better the employee" either. All you get with that is employees that take their pay to spend elsewhere and have no "ownership" for city they work for except an income. Many cities suffer from that now - big pay for top level employees that live in other more upscale communities and just "visit" where they work to make decisions that don't effect them - its very strange that it is allowed!!!! Back to the subject at hand - how does one cease paying taxes for a service they no longer have? Just because there haven't been any emergencies at Shell (knocking on wood) doesn't mean it couldn't happen. The same thought might be, "I haven't ever had an emergency in my home so why should there fire stations at all?". A crazy justification for educated professionals to make in removing a public safety service next to a complex that processes dangerous chemicals. The possibilities here are loss of life, loss of property followed by many expensive court actions should an accident occur at Shell.
Jed January 12, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Those who elected these politicians must enjoy what they are seeing - the greatest ineptitudes ever foisted onto a city. Well, not the greatest, but up there all the same. Good luck with that. How's that "hopey, changey'' thing workin' for you?
R. Benson January 13, 2013 at 03:32 AM
one of the recommendations suggested, that homeowners look into installing sprinkler systems in their homes was way out of line. I would be very surprised if those same homeowners that are trying desperately to hang onto their homes through this economy, and property value losses, could even consider that an option. to me, that comment sounded like it came from a person very out of touch with members of the community he is charged with protecting.
Cindy January 13, 2013 at 03:46 AM
Plain and simple...our elected officials failed to do their job. They did not do their homework and allowed an increase in pay, pension & health care without first researching if it could be afforded. Now you have employees who expect those benefits and cities who finally realize that they could never have afforded those expenses. Until we are willing to see the facts we will continue to have closures such as this. When will we learn?
Lawrence Risner January 13, 2013 at 06:34 PM
My feeling is the the average person is so busy texting and talking (playing) on their personal communication "toys" that they don't realize or see what is coming down the financial road for them by the few we all put in charge. Another sad thing is that the media didn't even see the irony in the idea from the government that if the tax breaks didn't pass they would have to cut many tax paid services. I don't quite understand the sense in that more tax monies equals less services vs less tax monies equals no service cuts, like what the?????? I guess I missed something somewhere in a logic lesson. Unless something snaps and the general public sees, "enough of this bull!" nothing is going to change.
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Subject: same taxes, reduced services, hope for no future need, etc...Agree!
gayle goldblatt January 13, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I am guessing that -- statistically -- most likely to be affected by this would be refinery workers in case of a Shell explosion. I sure wish that Shell and/or their unions felt a sense that they should contribute and support this fire station.
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Unfortunately this is County politics not City politics, and it affects Cities and communiities NOT actively represented by Cities, although I am happy to see some City of Martinez representatives taking notice and possible action in this possible scuttling. There CAN be better ways to go forward and we all need those elected officials to take an active part in making that happen. From beginning to end. But the County elected officials, Board of Supervisors, who are solely responsible for this decision, were definately split in their approaches. We DO have our tea partiers on board there, make no mistake and they are pushing their agenda every meeting. Its up to this community to figure out who they are and stop them. But a special thanks goes out to Supervisor John Gioia who does not have a dog in this fight and fought the hardest for better information and solutions!!
Chris J Kapsalis January 13, 2013 at 08:57 PM
It's like a bully bullying you to hit yourself or you'll be sorry.
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Very true statements. This kind of comment comes from people who dont understand what a modest income community really is. silver spoon, big retirement, you know..
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 09:00 PM
This County hires nationally famous union busting negotiators to fight every single word at the bargaining table. Don't kid yourself. No benefits were loftily given away. They havent given up a dime in 10 years to most of the County employees. Well except Mgrs.
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 09:05 PM
That is something I am suprised hasn't been vetted yet, but in private industry jobs, people get afraid to lose their jobs...even these days...thats why govt union employees are on the fore front of the battlefield all the time. Its moderately safer..But it stands to Shell to come with a response if they are the good neighbor who they claim...we would love to hear from them. Just once in 100 years.
ChampagneKitty January 13, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Unfortunately, this is only the first round of fire station closures. There is supposed to be more coming later this year.
Cheryll January 13, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Yes. As of October last year the Chief said 3. As of November/December he said 2, as of last week he says 1. Wonder what is changing that budget so much to make all those changes...hmmm.... But 2 points; Communities are clearly telling him and the Board of asupervisors closures are not the solution, and we want them to go back to the drawing board. 2. Why are we making these DRASTIC changes to communites, but have such faulty informaiton that the number of closures can change from 3 to 1 in the span of 3 months? I have no confidence in such figures at all. And without credibility in the figures and information there is less credinility in the suggested solutions. Just MY feeling.. but that's what happens when you dont involved the stake holders in the planning.
Dave Thomas January 14, 2013 at 12:37 AM
No one wants an unsafe situation. Across the US fire protection is a combination of community members and full time fire fighters. The same is also true for police protection. We do not have this situation because it "could" result in 75% of law enforcement and 75% of fire persons being laid off. As one example POLICE patrol need not be done by a highly paid police officer. One POLICE supervisor and the community might work..We could have three times as many eyes out there as a seriously reduced expense. A fireman does not need to drive a fire truck. A fireman need not be the person holding the fire hose. A fireman need not be the person responding to a heart attack. A fireman need not be the person inspecting for fire extinguishers in commercial buildings. We pay dearly because we have too many professionals doing what anyone could do when we need a few professionals and community assist. Offer citizens health benefits or a small compensation for participation / training etc and reduce our operating expenses.. There are also California communities in which Police Fire are a combined department. Our community would be a much better place if the citizens who are WILLING to be involved are allowed to be involved. The problem is that those in charge do not want to part with their control. Its a change. Would crime go down if we had two Sworn supervisors and 20 members of the community patroling our streets 24 hours a day? Its done everyday across the US.
Cheryll January 14, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Ok, some merit is some situations I am sure, but other situations, not at all. Which community member will carry a gun, in place of a sworn officer? It would be interesting to find the issues that we don't want professionals as opposed to where proffessionals are imperative. Maybe one community member would be willing to man the firestation and show up first on the scene before the ambulances, but what would they do??
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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