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ECCFPD: Knightsen Fire Station Re-Opens

A beautiful thing occurred Sunday morning for the East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District as they were able to re-open Station 94 in Knightsen because of a SAFER Grant from FEMA. The station is now staffed with three personnel and increases service in the area by 25%.

“The opening of the fire station and the rehiring of the employees is great news for the communities we serve, however, this is a short-term fix for a long-term problem for the fire district. Yesterday starts the clock ticking on a 24 month grant,” said Chief Hugh Henderson.

In June, 15 firefighters were laid off, 8 of them have now been re-hired. With the opening of the station the District has reinstated three engineers back to the rank of captain (Totten, Bennett, and Guerrero) brought back three engineers (May, Copple, and Wentz), reinstated three firefighters back to engineer (Baitx, Tanner, and Grima), and rehired five firefighters (Dillon, Johnston, Laughlin, Miller, and Somerhalder).

Even with the re-hires, it’s been a long process since June.

“ECCFPD received a $7.9 million dollar safer grant. What is a major concern is that it has taken until November 18th to hire back the remaining laid off fire fighters in order to take advantage of the grant,” said Vince Wells, Local 1230 President. “Despite the fact that the grant is for enough money to pay the personnel cost for the three fire stations that were closed, they will only be able to open one of them this year, It takes 9 fire fighters to open each station, and only eight of the laid off firefighters were willing to return. Six received jobs at other higher paying and more stable departments.

According to Chief Henderson, the District is still recruiting for new firefighters with the application deadline closing on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. The District hopes to reopen station 54 downtown Brentwood in the spring of 2013.

“Due to the low pay, the hiring pool has been minimal. Fortunately the Safer Grant managers from the Federal Government have been patient and willing to work through many of the issues the district is currently facing. Due to the pay and benefits paid out to the ECCFPD, they have been only able to attract entry-level personnel fresh out of college or fire fighter 1 academy’s,” said Wells.

While the station opening is obviously a great thing for the community, it’s only a 2-year window as the clock is now ticking.

Revenue for the District will still be a concern going forward and I would hope the new board begins working immediately on another revenue enhancement when Brentwood appoints its new members in early 2013. While $197 may not be the answer, a lower figure will be needed and its just a matter of how much.

I would also encourage folks to take a deeper look into Mr. Wells comments because while no one wants to hear it, he is speaking in truth.

By Michael Burkholder

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Categorised in: East County, ECCFPD

10 Responses »

  1. This is some great news. Happy to hear this. I had no idea it was going to open and was done so quietly. Vince Wells statement is a powerful one. Even with job openings, it highlights how the low pay has hurt the District in terms of new-hires and looks like we will be a stepping stone for other Districts as we give them experience and then ship them off. This whole idea of lower wages should be put to rest once and for all for ECCFPD. This District is not paying our guys too much, we are paying them to little!!!!!

  2. To those firefighters who came back. I tip my hat to you after you were crapped on by voters in June. You guys have my ultimate respect. Lets hope the next time around people appreciate you all more in the voting booth.

  3. Hip Hip Hooray!!!! Thank you gentlemen for coming back to the fire dept. I do recognize your dedication to this District and the people that it serves.

  4. I hope people realize while it was stressful on the firefighters who were laid off, how about how stressful it was for the firefighters who remained who were overworked and stretched thin. Taking vacations was difficult due to staffing levels. Those who remained did an amazing job during fire season to protect us as it could have been worse than it was. All of these brave men have my respect.

    • 100% correct Ben. Before my husband retired from PD, they were understaffed and getting time off, either vacation or comp, was darn near impossible. He missed alot of things including our middle son’s 8th grade graduation.!!!!!

  5. I thought for sure Kris Hunt and company would be there to welcome them back! 🙂

  6. Hey second run out to the Island today. missed hearing them leave the station in Knightsen, come down Knightsen Ave, then the debate, did they turn right or left at Cypress. I can’t tell you how glad I am to see that ugly green-yellow rig go by the house!!

  7. Until some serious changes are made in service models, compensation and benefits. We will see the same cycle play out in 24-months. The Board of Supervisors needs to get a hold of this now and bring everyone to the table to negotiate while the Grant is active. They could impose something that benefits the people the District is supposed to serve instead of business as usual which is why people voted against Measure S and Measure Q. If revenue went down over the years, so should have staffing levels in conjunction with revenue coming in rather than reserves that were built up covering it.

    The people have spoken twice now, lets make the changes the voters have requested.

    • Jill, I guess Mr. Wells comments went right over your head as he said the District is having a hard time filling the positions based on the low pay and benefits of the District compared to others. I don’t recall voters speaking on the type of plan you suggest about service model (no proposal has ever been presented other than talking points with few details), voters spoke that rather than pay an additional parcel tax, they preferred stations be closed.

    • The service model and staffing did go down over the last two years. Were you not paying attention to the news?

      I’m in agreement with Burk. Don’t recall any question like what you suggest on my ballot. Did you conduct exit polling? Can you share the results? Can we assume it was done with industry standard collection methods and not just an email tree with your CoCoTax friends? Hey, I’d love to be able to buy gas at what it cost 10 years ago, but reality doesn’t work that way. Still waiting for the naysayers to explain how the costs for government provided services are supposed to remain frozen in time like that. All we get is crickets chirping anytime it is brought up.

      “…..that benefits the people the District is supposed to serve” is code for saying you want something for nothing. That also explains the chirping crickets factor. Because you know any real discussion is going to go there.

      You’ve got a MBA over there running that CoCoTax thing. She crows about her credentials quite a lot lately. Why not have her put those skills to work explaining how goods and services costs are supposed to remain flat for 10 years. That’s a secret I’d like to know myself.

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