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Clayton Fire Station to be De-Staffed

Update: Station 11 will close its regular operations in January and instead be manned six hours a day by Crystal Ranch staff. The unanimous vote to scale back four fire stations in the area will save $3 million in a district facing a $17 million deficit

The City of Clayton's only fire station will lose its staff and become a part time operation as a cost-saving measure, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

After nearly six hours of testimony, the board of supervisors, acting as the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, unanimously agreed to scale back or shutter four fire stations, including Station 11 on Center Avenue in Clayton as well as stations in Martinez, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

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

Clayton's fire station has three full-time staff members and serves the City of Clayton as well as parts of Concord and the Clayton Valley area. In the new year, the station will be operated from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day by staff from the Crystal Ranch station in Concord. Equipment will be pooled.

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

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 opened in their towns. 

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."

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. 

"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 Ave., 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. 

"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."

"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, additional fire stations will need to be closed in the next few years. 

How do you feel about the closure of Clayton's fire station? Are you worried service being affected? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

EdiBirsan December 12, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Technically the Fire Station in Clayton will not be closed. What is happening is that the equipment is being withdrawn to a central back up pool and the crews 'de staffed' HOWEVER, the plan calls for the shifting of the crew from Concord's Crystal Ranch to be stationed in Clayton from 2PM to 8PM so in effect the station will be staffed 75% of the time in Concord and 25% of the time in Clayton. The idea of the split shift was so that the fireman would not be fighting rush hour traffic as explained by the Chief at the Concord City Council meeting tonight.
David S. Wilson December 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I hope that this works out. My first reaction is what happens when a real emergency needs all this equipment. Response time will be quite slow.
C.McCullough December 12, 2012 at 03:55 PM
that is good informative news Ed...one of the reasons I voted for ya. Now just let the people of Clayton know.
Emily Henry (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Thank you for the explanation, Edi. But that's still only a quarter of a working fire station. And I wonder if the service area for Crystal Ranch will be affected?
stephanie December 13, 2012 at 02:37 AM
what happens to the seniors that live at diamond terrace across the street from station 11 in clayton we at diamond terrace depend on station 11 for assistance when a senior falls or has a stroke or heart attack station 11 had over 600 er calls where crystal ranch had 300 if you reduce hours they need to reduce at crystal rance and not clayton station 11
Roger Haserot December 13, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Closing fire stations is just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem lies in the politicians from city to state giving in to "public" employee unions on the issue of pensions. California needs to make changes to retirement programs that places retirement income at a comparable level to state teachers - i.e. no padding - just base it on annual contracted salary. California will never go the way of Wisconsin or Michigan or any other state with "right to work" laws. We need to bust the unions - especially the public service unions who buy votes and politicians. I personally will never vote for a tax increase in any area until the pension problem is solved.
Mike Sanders December 13, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Unions, ya right. People didn't want to pay taxes That's the bottom line. There's a wave coming, massive cuts to stale, local and federal programs which is due to the systemic crisis we've been experiencing since 2008. Give the banks trillions and cut local/state/federal programs. It's called austerity. It has nothing to do with unions.
Tim Johnson December 28, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Mike: It has everything to do with unions. The public employees get pension and benefits that would never take place in the private sector. Virtually all private sector jobs provide for employees to contribute to a 401k plan and once they retire there is no more being paid to them. We end up paying fire fighters, police, teachers etc. for the rest of their lives. Imagine what kind of fire coverage we would have if all the fire fighters we were paying, actually worked fighting fires.

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