CLAYTON -- Central Contra Costa's smallest town will soon be its only town without its own fire station, raising concerns about inevitably longer emergency response times, particularly in hilly neighborhoods.
Station 11 on Center Street is one of four Contra Costa Consolidated Fire Protection District stations set to close in January. Its shuttering means Station 22 on Crystyl Ranch Parkway in Concord, the closest other station to Clayton, will pick up Clayton's 911 calls.
In City Councilman Howard Geller's view, because the Clayton station is also on the edge of the fire district's boundaries, it should be a strong candidate to remain open.
"I think it's the wrong station to close," Geller said this week. "I don't think you close the station that is at the end of the route. You should close interior stations."
Residents will be able to hear firsthand from fire officials about the effects of the closure at an informational meeting on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Community Library, 6125 Clayton Road.
The Contra Costa County supervisors voted unanimously Dec. 11 on the closures of stations in Walnut Creek, Martinez, Lafayette and Clayton. That came more than a month after county voters rejected a temporary parcel tax measure that would have raised $17 million and kept all of 28 stations operating. Officials are calling the closures temporary and expect to shut down two additional stations in the next year.
When the Oakhurst Country Club and its surrounding neighborhood was built, the city moved the fire station closer to the hillside neighborhood so fire engines could more quickly respond, according to former Mayor Pete Laurence, who was on council when the new station was built.
Geller is particularly concerned with what will happen when someone in the hilly neighborhoods of Clayton calls 911. Fire engines coming from Station 22 will battle inclines and traffic along Ygnacio Valley and Kirker Pass Roads before reaching Oakhurst, he said.
"That's scary," Geller said.
ConFire Chief Daryl Louder has said the decision on closures was based on best serving the entire district, which provides fire service to residents in Central County, Antioch and San Pablo. While Station 11 in Clayton responds to more overall calls than Station 22 in Concord, the Concord crews respond to double the number of actual fire incidents, Louder has said.
"I know that our communities consider their fire stations to be in their cities and in their communities. I'm glad that they do, " Louder told the board of supervisors earlier this month. "I'm glad that they are passionate about that, but we have to look at it from a district and system standpoint."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.