ECCFPD Town Hall Answers Discovery Bay Fire Concerns
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Chief Brian Helmick, addressed the fire service concerns of the Discovery Bay community in a town hall-format Zoom meeting, August 24.
The Chief explained the cause for the funding shortfall that has created the dramatic lack of fire services to this community. In 1978, Proposition 13 set a permanent, 1% property tax distribution percentage. A mere 8% of that 1% is allocated to fire services – a figure that was based upon the rural population figures of this area that existed in 1978. As the population of East Contra Costa grew, the demand for fire services grew with it, but the percentage of property taxes did not.
We now find our district in a position where the property tax allocation for fire services is half that of surrounding areas. The percentage allocated for fire services cannot be changed without a highly-unlikely repeal of Prop 13. In hindsight, the chief explained, it is clear local governments should have included new tax assessments as new housing developments were approved, but this did not happen and now we find ourselves in a dangerous position.
The average 12-minute response time rate is not just dangerous for the protection of life and property. The 4/9 ISO score (Insurance Services Office) for this service area affects both the cost and the availability of homeowner’s insurance. The low score (out of a possible 10) is factored by the longer response times and insufficient staffing levels at the three fire stations, now serving a 250-square mile area. Insurance companies view the low score as a risk and if these response times worsen, some areas could become uninsurable.
The criteria for a sustainable solution:
- Guaranteed Funding – A solution will include a guaranteed funding source that can be relied upon as we meet the growing needs of this district.
- Sustainable – A solution will maintain a sustainable amount of fire staff and fire stations.
- Right Amount – A solution will be enough to fill and retain the needed staff positions, maintain and reopen firehouses.
The Chief shared: “My challenge is that many residents only care about the community in which they live but my interest is for every resident and business across the entire district. No community is second-rate. You are heard and you are all important.”