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Contra Costa Fire District Receives $6.5 Million Grant

Contra Costa Times

May 17, 2011

Walnut Creek, Calif. — Two Contra Costa Fire District stations slated for closure will remain open for at least the next two years after the federal government announced Monday that it is awarding the fire district a $6.5 million grant.

The grant, which is part of a federal program called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, or SAFER, will “significantly enhance the safety for the community and our firefighters by keeping resources in service,” Fire Chief Daryl Louder said in a news release.

The grant is provided through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency. The additional funding, which the fire district voted to accept Tuesday, will pay to keep 21 firefighters employed. The fire district’s 2011-12 budget called for as many as five stations to be closed.

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“We’re so short-staffed now, well below the minimum staffing. So we’ve been covering all those positions with overtime,” Fire Marshal Lewis Broschard said. “By being able to hire these firefighters full time, that allows us the flexibility to keep open two of those stations.”

State budget cuts and the reduction in property tax revenues have taken a toll on the fire district’s coffers, and Broschard said the fire district was operating under the assumption that five stations would be closing. The grant gives the district two more years to find permanent funding.

“In two years, this revenue stream is no longer there unless the SAFER program is

still there, and we’re successful at getting it," Broschard said. “But this buys us time.”

The fire district is pinning some of its hopes for future revenue on a parcel tax initiative it hopes to have on either the June 2012 or November 2012 ballot. The proposal was presented to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in March, Broschard said.