Meanwhile, the owner of a Bethel Island restaurant said her insurance has already more than doubled in the wake of this week’s ECCFPD cuts.
“I should have gotten more involved” in the effort to pass Measure S, said Donna Simon, owner of Island Joe’s restaurant on Bethel Island after she was informed that her policy was jumping from $200 to $489 per month. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”
Measure S, a parcel tax meant to offset the plunging property tax revenue, was soundly defeated last month, resulting in the July 1 closure of three of the district’s six fire stations, including Bethel Island’s Station 95. In addition to the shuttering of their 70-year-old station, Islanders faced the loss of emergency medical services provided by American Medical Response’s (AMR) quick-response vehicle (QRV) that had been based in the station.
AMR General Manager Leslie Mueller said the island’s QRV will remain in place until mid-July, after which it will be replaced by an ambulance with two paramedics. The two paramedics will make it possible for the ambulance crew to do more than the one-person QRV, which relied on help from firefighters from the now-closed station. The ambulance will be able to transport patients as well, which the QRV could not.
Mueller said details were still being finalized for housing the ambulance, but it would most likely be along Cypress Road in Oakley, either near Sellers Avenue or at Main Street. In addition to Bethel Island, the ambulance will also cover Oakley and Knightsen, as well as other parts of the district on an as-needed basis. In the event the ambulance is committed to a lengthy call, additional resources will be shifted to cover the area, Mueller said.
But as fire engine response times are expected to as much as double, Islanders are doing what they can to protect themselves and their property. The Island’s Chamber of Commerce has begun taking names of residents interested in learning CPR; another group has redoubled efforts to provide unpressurized “dry hydrants” from which fire engines can draw water from the Delta; and work has begun to get Station 95 designated a historic building to allow renovations, perhaps by volunteers who could one day augment the fire crews as well.
The station has been declared unfit for habitation by fire or QRV crews due to toxic mold and asbestos. Repairs are complicated by the requirement that all new buildings or major renovations on the island raise the structure above the flood plain, something not needed for a historical designation, according to Island resident Christine Thresh.
“It could be a staging area or a place for firefighters on a long call to get some food or rest or a shower,” said Thresh. “We might even try to get a deputy sheriff there. It has a lot of possibilities.”
Thresh added that an examination by a contractor who might be able to assist in the renovations showed that the historical designation makes it possible for the renovations to be made at a fraction of the $1 million-plus price tag estimated by county officials a couple of years ago.
The district is currently looking into the possibility of establishing a volunteer arm, but efforts have only recently been started to determine if there’s enough interest to provide the 40 to 50 qualified volunteers needed. Fire Chief Hugh Henderson said Tuesday that his office received about two dozen phone calls from interested people after news reports about volunteers came out last week. It’s unclear how many of those are qualified, said Henderson, who is finalizing the application process and hopes to post detail next week on the district’s website, www.eccfpd.org.
Mark Whitlock is also working to improve Island defenses. He’s been spearheading work on a system of “dry hydrants” located on the water’s edge that will provide hookups for fire engines to pump directly out of the Delta. Last week, the ECCFPD successfully tested eight such hydrants.
“By the end of this summer, I’m looking to have 32 or so working,” said Whitlock. The hydrants, which cost between $1,200 to $1,500 each, are being paid for by the myriad water companies on the island, including 17 hydrants that will be covered by the largest company, Pleasant Time Water. A couple of residents have also paid for hydrants near their homes, Whitlock said.
“These hydrants are going to be critical in the future,” said Director Bob Cameron of the Bethel Island Municipal Advisory Commission (BIMAC). Cameron also said they’re hoping to raise an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 to pay for a pump that would pressurize standard fire hydrants along Bethel Island Road. Those hydrants have been waterless since the previous pump was lost due to the construction of the new Bethel Island Bridge.
Henderson praised Island residents for doing what they can to help themselves, even if they can’t don turnouts and man a hose.
“The community is trying to prepare themselves for emergencies, and that’s excellent,” Henderson said. “Not everyone can be a firefighter, but almost anyone can perform CPR.”
Whitlock said officials from AMR and the fire district would be on hand at next week’s BIMAC meeting, and he hopes to see many residents there eager to learn what’s being done and what they can do to assist. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Bethel Island Municipal Improvement District office, 3085 Stone Road.