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Cash-strapped fire district changes policies, reduces service

The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District announced Wednesday night that a lack of funding is prompting several policy changes, including firefighters not entering a burning building unless human life is at risk.

The district, which serves several East Contra Costa County communities such as Brentwood, Oakley and Discovery Bay, has had long-standing funding issues and is currently working out of three stations covering a 250-square-mile area.

Multiple ballot measures have gone in front of voters in the district proposing parcel and utility taxes to fund the fire district, but none have passed.

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District responds to a fire caused when a vehicle struck a power pole Sunday, June 7, 2020.

As a result, the district said in a news release that starting July 1, firefighters are using the defensive strategy of only going into a burning structure if a life is at risk, while also canceling all public outreach events and fire station visits indefinitely.

Fire Chief Brian Helmick said:

“Our firefighters are continually overrun responding to calls, maintaining required training and trying to be active in public education.”

Helmick added:

“We must take necessary steps to save lives and provide the safest environment for our workforce, so firefighters are ready and able to answer the call when it comes.”

The chief said “even more drastic measures” may be necessary, and that the district’s goal is to figure out a ballot measure that its community will support to provide a “local funding source that secures adequate ECCFPD fire protection in the future.”

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