East County’s public safety crisis being fixed, finally, by Supervisors

In 2015 residents of the eastern 249 square-miles of Contra Costa County were losing fire stations. The area’s fire and emergency medical response services existed, but because of government decisions, were scarce and inadequate.

The number of fire stations had decreased from eight in 2010 to just three, and average response time had ballooned from 7:24 minutes to 10:39 minutes, a 44% increase.

Government funding of East County’s emergency services was at a level one-fourth to one-third of funding levels in the rest of the County.

East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV) was formed in January, 2016, to advocate for improved emergency services for the region. In a rather amazing turn of events, changes to the level of these essential government services are now in the planning stages.

After extensive public outcry, after over 300 social media postings by ECV, after reports authored by the County’s Civil Grand Jury and the Local Agency Formation Commission, after an Inter-governmental Task Force report, after widespread coverage in TV news programs and newspapers, after ECV placed a billboard on Vasco Road, after ECV began and then was forced by County medical orders to abort a voter initiative, after extensive lobbying with all levels of government, and after a damning fire industry consulting report, the situation is finally going to change.

As of this writing, at the end of 2021, plans call for the number of fire stations to increase from three to six, and the quality of emergency medical service to improve as well.

Instead of three fire engines and nine firefighters scrambling to respond to the emergency calls of 130,000 people, plans now in place call for six fire stations and 18 firefighters. Plus, plans call for a paramedic-level emergency medical technician to be on each of these fire engines.

Two significant governmental service funding changes are about to occur. These changes may take a while, because after all, this is “The Government.” But the dire crisis that citizens of East County are experiencing may eventually be fixed.

First, a plan is underway to fold the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) into the County’s fire department, commonly known as ConFire. This will result in the operation of two new fully staffed fire stations.

This annexation of ECCFPD by Confire also means that firefighters medically trained to the paramedic-level will be placed on all engines. These first-responders will soon be able to deliver significant medical services on scene, instead of just supervising the transport of medical victims.

Second, the Board of Supervisors recently allocated $3.5 million of on-going funding and $12.2 million of one-time Measure-X sales tax revenues to address this East County need.

This sales tax money has been accumulating since early 2021, and will continue to be collected for at least the next twenty years.

It should be noted that in 2002 the Board of Supervisors created this “public safety emergency,” to use Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s words, when it consolidated three small fire districts under its control and created ECCFPD, without changing funding methodologies.

Government agencies told the County Supervisors, during the 2002 consolidation review process, that funding levels in East County were insufficient. The Board of Supervisors said that they would see to it that East County emergency services were funded to levels comparable to the rest of the county. But the Supervisors failed to address this structural funding problem.

For nearly twenty years, as East County’s population expanded dramatically, the fire and emergency medical service levels deteriorated. Funding amounts did not keep up with public needs.

East County lives and property have been at greater risk than elsewhere in Contra Costa County, because of this inaction by the Supervisors.

But soon the “public safety emergency” will be resolved.

Save East County Lives,

Preserve Property,

with No New Taxes!

East County Voters for Equal Protection was formed in 2016 to advocate for improved emergency medical and fire services for the residents of eastern Contra Costa County.

East County lives are being lost, homes are burning down, and emergency response times are continuing to exceed any recognized standard, all because government has not adequately funded emergency services in 249 square-miles of eastern Contra Costa County, where 130,000 people live.

In December, 2020, response times for the region’s residents were on average 12:30 minutes, ninety percent of the time. This response time average is dangerously above response time goals stated by the National Fire Protection Association in Standard 1710.

During the last three months of 2020, the fire district serving eastern Contra Costa County was unavailable to respond to ANY emergency calls for 20:37:17 hours, nearly a full 24-hour day. During this time 14 emergency calls came in, almost all for medical emergencies.

By any sane judgement this region needs three additional fire stations, immediately. The region now has just three fire stations and nine on-duty firefighters.

Within the last few-months of 2020 a teaser-style consulting report has been published. It states that if the regional fire district serving East County were consolidated into the County’s fire district, near-term service upgrades would include paramedic staffing on all fire engines, and two additional operational fire stations. Response times could be shortened, some have estimated, by as much as 37%. All of this increase in service would be with no new taxes.

At the last general election, in November, 2020, a countywide half-cent sales tax was approved. In July, 2020, an opinion poll of county voters reported that emergency medical and fire service was the number one area voters wanted to spend this money on. The Board of Supervisors is now considering where the $81 million of new tax revenue will be spent.

Please encourage all government entities to take action to address this public safety crisis. Contact your elected representative and tell them it is time to fix the public safety emergency.

Billboard by G