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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CAL FIRE NEWS: East Contra Costa Fire District renews contract

OAKLEY — Responding to anxious homeowners, the East Contra Costa Fire District board tonight reversed its decision to close its contract fire station in the Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area.

Directors voted 8 to 1 to renew the agency's $366,000 contract with Cal Fire, which had been providing fire protection during the off-season from a station that the state agency owns in that region.
How the district will come up with the money remains to be determined.

Director Bob Brockman voted no, saying the action was inconsistent with the decision to close two of its own stations in mid-July to balance its budget.

Hard-hit by plummeting property tax revenue, the agency expects to end the current fiscal year with a $1.8 million deficit and to exhaust its reserves before the end of 2012-13.

Homeowner Rick Bell voiced the worries of many in the near-capacity audience as he told the board that his insurance company will cancel his policy Nov. 14 because he now lives in an area with inadequate fire protection.

During the six months of the year that Cal Fire has been operating its Sunshine station, the response time to emergencies in that region has been approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

Closing the facility is expected to increase that to an estimated 20 minutes because engines would be coming from Clayton and Brentwood, roughly 7 and 14 miles away, respectively, said Fire Chief Hugh Henderson.

Insurance companies still willing to do business with residents have reacted to the increased risk by jacking up their rates: Bell said he found one that's charging $4,290 annually and providing significantly less coverage than what he bought last year for $1,428.

Speakers also underscored the other dangers that come with living in their rural community and might require medical intervention.

Vehicles have collided with wild pigs and deer, said Susan Klekar, adding that rattlesnakes are another hazard.

Others noted that the winding and narrow Morgan Territory Road draws young drivers looking for high-speed thrills.

To wait 20 minutes for emergency help to arrive would put drivers at risk but affects visitors to Mt. Diablo State Park and parts of the East Bay Regional Park District, said Dan Henry.
"Some decisions cry out to be reversed and this is one of those," he said.

A Cal Fire representative at the meeting explained that it could take 45 days to reopen the station because the contract must have state approval and seasonal workers would have to be rehired.

Director Jim Frazier said he has been talking with Sen. Mark DeSaulnier about whether there are state funds that might be available. He urged residents to call DeSaulnier's office to plead their cases.
Chris Finetti, another board member, reminded listeners to vote for the parcel tax that the district is considering putting on the ballot next year.

Frazier asked his colleagues to consider generating revenue by establishing developer fees for home construction.
Source article: Mercury  Link

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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