MARTINEZ -- Less than six months after shutting down three central county fire stations and reducing service in Clayton, the troubled Contra Costa County Fire Protection District will close yet another station, this time in East County.
County supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to close the station on West Leland Road in Pittsburg. That decision followed a budget recommendation last month by County Administrator David Twa that shutting two fire stations would save the cash-strapped district about $3.05 million a year.
The Pittsburg station will close in July.
County administrators on Tuesday did not say which station would close Jan. 1.
"We're not identifying that sixth station at this time because we want to see how operations unfold," said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.
County officials also decided to continue talks later this month about whether to partner with the Moraga-Orinda Fire District to build a new joint station on the Lafayette-Orinda border.
The latest closures will leave the fire district with 23 stations. The district currently has a $102.3 million annual operating budget.
Officials shut stations in Lafayette, Martinez and Walnut Creek in January and began staffing the Clayton station part time. They blamed the closures on declining property tax revenue, increased health care costs and pension contributions, and voter rejection last November of a parcel tax the district estimated would have raised about $17 million per year in additional revenue for the next seven years.
Without the closures, the district would continue to operate with a model officials say would use up the remaining balance in the district's operating fund. They would also be forced to draw more than $541,000 from the district's pension bond stabilization fund, according to a staff report.
"We are at a critical drawdown level for fire protection and EMS service within our community," county fire Chief Daryl Louder told supervisors at the start of a presentation on the closures. "I have serious doubts about our ability to provide protection for our community and I have serious concerns about the safety of our personnel operating out there."
Louder briefly outlined measures the district has taken to reduce costs, including using the entire $25 million reserve fund to maintain service. He said Con Fire had worked with neighboring districts to manage resources, and warned there was more trouble ahead.
"Unfortunately, there is potential for even greater reductions in fiscal year 2014-15 unless we have some other revenue stream," he said. The district's revenue comes mainly from property taxes, which have not recovered to pre-2008 levels.
"This is not a good day. This is just awful," said a tearful Supervisor Mary Piepho, who lives in Discovery Bay. "The service level deficiencies within the district, as we know, are seriously negatively affecting our communities and the safety of our personnel. It's a really sad set of circumstances."
Officials said they will hold community meetings but did not say when those would take place.