OAKLEY – At the edge of Oakley in eastern Contra Costa County, a part of the Bay Area that has struggled with fire protection, a new fire station opened Wednesday.
The new station on Cypress Road puts firefighters in position to better respond to areas that have faced notorious problems with response times, and the change comes as a big relief for local residents.
Nine years and 11 months after the last fire station in this area closed, neighbors turned out for the opening of Station 95. But this wasn’t just the opening of a new station.
This is one step towards. The district’s financial struggles had produced years of service concerns.
“A couple years ago, we were all evacuated at about 3 to 4 a.m. in the morning because of a huge fire that was right behind us here,” said Nancy Huffaker of Oakley. “So they had to bring all the resources in.”
The consolidation is supposed to reverse those problems and Station 95 is the first part of that.
“So they should have a response time within five minutes in the general area around us,” explained Chief Brian Helmick of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. “Historically, they have been having anywhere from 10 to 15 to 19 minute response times. So it will at least drop response times and this immediate area by half.”
“Response times for Antioch and Pittsburg are going to improve by 30 seconds because those units are more available in their first due areas because of this enhanced service,” added Deputy Fire Chief Aaron McAlister with Contra Costa County Fire. “So it really is a system.”
The county units also offer full paramedic service, while the district crews did not.
More resources are coming. Another engine company will be deployed next year with a possible third after that. Everyone here can think of plenty of reasons why it’s all needed.
“Because there’s a lot of people, and a lot of building coming this way,” Huffaker said of the area’s growth. “So we really needed something closer.”
“We are in the throes of fire season a full 30 days earlier than normal,” McAlister said of the region’s fire danger. “Adding this resource in this geographic area will be a huge improvement in our ability to keep fires smaller.”
The consolidation of the two departments will become official on July 1st. On that date the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District will officially no longer exist.
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