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They Fiddle While El Sobrante Burns
January 14, 2006

For over three years, the City of Richmond Fire Department and the Contra Costa Fire Protection District have been negotiating to try to resolve a jurisdictional and service dispute in El Sobrante. People who live in El Sobrante understand that the El Sobrante geography is an irrationally intertwined conglomeration of City of Richmond and Contra Costa County jurisdiction. Providing public services, particularly public safety services, for this area is a challenge. Complicating this is the fact that residents of unincorporated El Sobrante would rather be eaten by reptiles than be incorporated into the City of Richmond.


At one time, the City of Richmond Fire Department and the Contra Costa Fire Protection District had an interoperation agreement that the nearest fire company would respond to emergencies regardless of the jurisdiction. When it was discovered that Richmond was bearing an unfair share of the financial burden, Richmond threatened to pull out unless the arrangement was modified. The Contra Costa Fire Protection District balked, and Richmond walked.


Now each jurisdiction serves its own constituents without regard to overall efficiency or public safety concerns. The only exception is that the two organizations will still back each other up in a major emergency.


Letís look at their Mission Statements:




Our team consists of many professionals who work toward a common goal of providing quality service to the community. The Richmond Fire Department exists to protect people, property, and the environment from the harmful effects of fire, hazardous materials, and natural acts and to provide emergency medical care.  We strive to promote safety and to prevent adverse occurrences and, when incidents occur, to minimize harm through effective action.  As members of the Richmond community, uniquely trained and equipped, we are committed to providing prompt, efficient and courteous service at all times.  We seek opportunities to serve the community and strive to provide the most effective prevention, public education, preparedness, and emergency response services.


Contra Costa:


The Contra Costa Fire Protection District exists to provide you, your family and our communities with professional services dedicated to the preservation of life, property and the environment


These two fire/medical response organizations are nominally run, respectively, by the Richmond City Council and the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, but they are really run by their respective unions.


You would think that two organizations with such high sounding public interest directed objectives could find a way to provide the most efficient and safest service to residents and businesses of West County. That, however, is not the case. They remain deadlocked and the people remain at risk.


Luckily, this lack of cooperation has not resulted in any high profile disasters. Itís time to act before that happens.


What can you do? Contact Firefighters IAFF Local 1230. 112 Blue Ridge Drive, Martinez, CA 94553, 925/932-1230, email president@local1230.org and Richmond Firefighters IAFF Local 188, email, rfd188@aol.com  and ask them to put aside their personal agendas and help craft an agreement consistent with their organizationsí mission statements. Contact CCC Fire protection District Chief Keith Richter at Krich@CCCFPD.ORG and Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks at Michael Banks michael_banks@ci.richmond.ca.us. You can also contact the Richmond City Council members and the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and demand that they end this foolishness.