PITTSBURG -- Longer response times to calls are expected to result after fire trucks stop rolling out of one of Pittsburg's three fire stations next month.
Based on computer models, it's estimated the average response time for calls responded to by nearby stations will be 7 minutes and 42 seconds after Station 87 on West Leland Road closes, compared with an average response time of 6 minutes and 23 seconds before the closure.
"It's about a minute-and-20-second difference with units coming from other locations," Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Chief Daryl Louder told a gathering of about two dozen residents who attended a Monday night meeting on the closure at Pittsburg City Hall.
"If they are running another call, if they are returning from a fire in Antioch or whatever it happens to be ... it's certainly possible to have a lot longer than that," he said.
When Station 87 on West Leland Road closes on July 8, it will mark the fourth district fire station that has been shut down since January as a result of the district struggling with fewer financial resources after voters rejected Measure Q, a parcel tax ballot measure in November. After the closure, calls will be handled by a fire station in Bay Point on Willow Pass Road, which is 2.4 miles away, and another Pittsburg station on Railroad Avenue that is 2.9 miles away.
Pittsburg homeowner Astier Jones said she will feel less safe after Station 87 closes.
"It's unfair that you guys are closing," Jones said. "It hasn't even been that long and you guys are already closing it. I was so happy when you opened that station."
Closing the station is expected to result in a yearly savings of about $1.9 million, resulting from reduced overtime costs for the district, which will continue to maintain the station which was built in 2000. No layoffs are expected from the closure. Instead, firefighters will be reassigned to other stations to maintain a minimum staffing level of three firefighters on each engine company unit over a 24-hour period at the remaining 23 stations.¿
The vast majority of calls handled by Station 87 are emergency medical calls, just as they are at other stations.
To make more efficient use of existing resources during the peak service hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., the district is looking into having two emergency service-only personnel on engine units responding to medical calls. But Louder said the current practice of having three firefighters on an engine unit provides the flexibility to respond to a variety of situations given the district's limited resources.
"People ask 'Why does that big fire truck show up at our medical emergency?' For us, we have very limited resources. It's important to be as flexible and able to adapt and respond to different types of emergencies that we are responsible for as best we can. For us, that's a three-person engine company.... It gives us the most flexibility, the most ability to go from a fire to a water rescue to medical emergencies to vegetation fires," he said.
Having fire trucks stationed at strategic locations between two fire stations is also under consideration. Although that can result in efficiencies, there are practical issues to consider, Louder said.
"You are talking about a 20-ton fire truck that has to be on electrical charge and gets about two miles or three miles a gallon," he said.
Stations began closing after voters in November rejected a parcel tax that would have raised $17 million annually over seven years to offset a drop in revenues linked to lower property taxes and higher health care and pension costs.
In January, stations in Lafayette, Martinez and Walnut Creek closed and the Clayton station became staffed on a part-time basis. Last month, the county board of supervisors voted to close Station 87. Supervisors also voted to close another yet-to-be-determined station on Jan. 1, 2014, which will leave 22 stations in the fire district that serves much of Central County as well as Antioch, Bay Point, Pittsburg and San Pablo.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.