Many local officials and residents are steaming about plans to close Clayton’s only fire station on Jan. 15, one of four Contra Costa Fire Protection District stations in central Contra Costa County slated to be shuttered this year to cut costs.
The closures and subsequent firefighter layoffs will slice $3 million a year from its $102.4 million annual budget, according to CCFPD Chief Daryl Lauder, and are a result of the failure in the November election of Measure Q, a $75 per year parcel tax.
“This is very frustrating, and poses possible safety risks for our community,” Clayton Mayor Julie Pierce says. “We built this station so that it would provide adequate fire protection to Clayton, including up the hill into Oakhurst. Now, that will be impacted, and response times will increase.”
Station 11, on Center Street, won’t be completely unmanned, as firefighters from nearby Station 22 in Crystyl Ranch will staff it from 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Lauder acknowledges that the closures of Station 11 and other stations will reduce service in the area, but hopes that the district’s plan to “allocate resources” from other stations and local agencies will help alleviate any delays in response times.
Still, Pierce says that even a five-minute delay in an emergency can be disastrous. “Even if firefighters are stationed in Clayton, they may be called upon to respond to fires and other emergencies in Concord, Walnut Creek and even East County,” she says. “The whole fire district will be spread thin.”
One of the mayor’s top concerns, however, is that with less emergency resources available, Clayton police officers will be asked to respond to cardiac emergencies, since they carry automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in their vehicles.
“That is not a position we want our officers to be in,” says Pierce, “having to chose between responding to a crime in progress or a medical emergency.”
Clayton Police Chief Chris Thorsen shares her concern. “Our role is in law enforcement, and to protect the people and property of Clayton,” he says. “We’ve never been considered front-line medical responders. And as great as my guys are, they can’t be two places at once. I hope it’s a choice they don’t have to make.”
Some residents and local officials are angry that Clayton’s one station has been designated for closure, while Station 22 in Crystyl Ranch is to remain open, and its firefighters used to staff Station 11. However, both Lauder and Supervisor Karen Mitchoff say that data on calls – including the time and day of the emergency – helped make the decision.
“Because of the traffic on Ygnacio Valley Road in the afternoons, it makes sense to have someone in Clayton, so they won’t have to fight the gridlock,” Lauder says.
Mitchoff says she is frustrated and angry over having to close any stations, and believes that the public’s anger of high pensions paid out in neighboring fire districts helped fuel the defeat of Measure Q.
“People are angry, they want pension reform,” she says. “But our fire district is not the one that has had those problems. And we’re working hard to keep it that way.”
Local residents will have an opportunity to hear details of the fire district’s plan at a 7 p.m. meeting on Jan. 23, in the Library Community Room.