East County fire district gets financial delayed boost for training

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District got a delayed $500,000 boost on Friday to build a much-needed mobile fire training unit.

The funding, which Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Fairfield, locked in, comes after fighting many delays and setbacks due to COVID-19, officials said. The assemblyman, who secured the money through the assembly budgetary process, presented the check to the fire board on Friday, more than two years after he started pushing for it and a state spending freeze was enacted.

“Nothing is more important than continuing training assistance for our firefighter personnel, especially in this age of devastating fires,” Frazier said in a statement.

Brian Oftedal, president of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board, also applauded the additional funding.

“East Contra Costa Fire has never had a dedicated training facility in the history of the organization,” he said. “They have alway had to be innovative, using dilapidated houses, parking strurctures, whatever they could find to do the training.”

The new dedicated facility will not only allow the firefighters to do live fire training but also practice rescue skills, throw ladders, and provide space for mandated emergency medical training as well, Oftedal said.

Althought the district has yet to secure a site for the new training tower, Oftedal said it will likely resume talks with Ironhouse Sanitary District to use a portion of its land in Oakley.

“Now that the monies have been secured, we can sart that conversaiton back up,” he said.

In another boost for the fire district, it won an appeals hearing in mid-April for a $26,325 citation levied against a Discovery Bay resident who had illegally set off more than 500 fireworks on July 4 of last year.

“With the District’s limited resources of only three stations available to respond to fires, our Prevention Division works to eliminate all potential fires within the District,” Fire Marshal Steve Aubert said in a statement.

The fire district’s three active fire stations — in Oakley Brentwood and Discovery Bay — serve its 250 square miles and 128,000 residents. Another fire station has been built on East Cypress Road in Oakley though money to staff it has not been available. That station is now projected to open in March of 2022 provided Measure X tax money comes through, Oftendal said.

Funding for the ECCFPD was first established when the district was mostly rural and has not evolved as East County’s population has increased. The property tax allocation share remains at 7% of the total county funds while need for services has grown dramatically as more people have moved to the area, according to fire officials.

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