There are plans afoot to close our Bethel Island fire station. This is terrible news and residents are very worried.
The station is housed in an old Quonset hut, surplus from WW II. The department was started by volunteers in the late 1940s. Over the years it finally was staffed by a paid chief and several officers but still operated with on-call volunteers who were paid when they fought fires. A percentage of the island’s property tax goes to fund the station’s operation. The community held many fund raisers to purchase equipment. There were firemen’s balls, bake sales, and other local celebrations. Funds were raised to buy a fire boat which was very valuable to the island and also used for mutual aid in the Delta waters.
A few years ago the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District was formed in conjunction with nearby communities – Brentwood, Oakley, Knightsen, Discovery Bay, and Byron. The County Board of Supervisors promised that the new District would not mean a loss of service. The District became an all-union operation with no more volunteers. Headquarters are located in Brentwood.
Now, budget woes because of property tax losses, are facing the ECCFPD. At the last meeting the Fire District board proposed closing two fire stations to save money. Three stations (Byron, Discovery Bay, and Bethel Island) are being considered and they are going to pick two of them for closure.
Two weeks ago I printed up flyers to notify residents about the proposed closure.
I spent Saturday morning in front of the post office handing out flyers and urging residents to attend the next Fire District meeting to protest the closing of our station. The meeting is scheduled for June 29 at 6:30 pm at the Oakley City Council chamber.
If the island’s station is closed it will take 15 minutes for the off-island fire stations in either Oakley or Knightsen to respond. The only access to the island is over the single bridge. The population of the island is mainly older people and medical calls are frequent.
I plan to stand in front of the post office again this Saturday and hand out flyers and inform islanders about the important meeting. I bought 96 red plastic firefighters hats. I plan to hand them out to islanders attending the meeting on June 29. We want to stand out and get noticed.
Labels: friends, history, island life, odd facts