I watched with great concern the story on CBS (Monday) evening that detailed the looming cuts to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District that will, if implemented, reduce the already short-staffed department further. The story focused on Oakley, but the problem will affect all of the area.
In one prediction, it was stated that the current 48 firefighter ranks would be reduced to 23, and would result in serious increases to response time. In fact, the person interviewed stated that responses would rise to 20 minutes and longer! We are all too aware of the problem we face in a part of the county where rapid growth, followed by sudden and devastating budget shortfalls, has made it impossible to continue the spending rates required to keep our citizens safe. There just is no money.
As a transplant from the East Coast more than 30 years ago, I have often wondered why we do not have the same volunteer fire departments that are found all over such places as New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I would guess they are also all over other states, but I can only speak from experience regarding those three.
In nearly every suburb, volunteers are trained to fight fires, manage emergencies and provide first-on-scene help to all kinds of situations. These volunteers take their role very seriously as they respond immediately to alarms sent to receivers in their homes to call them into action at their very local (usually a few blocks from their home) fire station.
Some sectors have a hybrid system in which permanent fire professionals are joined by volunteers who add their hands, minds and sometimes their lives to those of the professionals. This is a system that works! At any rate, it could be a way to reduce the looming 20-minute response times without adding tremendously to the cost for public safety.
At the very least, our county and city officials would be wise to visit some of the volunteer areas of the East Coast to see if there is anything we can implement here.
Jack Harper, Brentwood