BRENTWOOD — A coalition of concerned residents are moving forward with a plan to advertise a “warning sign” for East Contra Costa County’s inadequate fire funding.
The group is looking to raise $1,770 for six months of a billboard advertisement that would say “WARNING: Entering a Public Safety Danger Zone! EMS and Fire Services inadequately funded! Proceed at your own risk!”
Some also want to add a skull and crossbones for extra emphasis.
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The billboard location, or possibly locations, would be along major access routes into the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s 240-square-mile coverage area: Vasco Road and eastbound Highway 4.
The idea originated with a civic-minded Brentwood resident, Peggy Hart, who passed away in late April.
“She was a great person who cared about others and she was also a practical person,” said Greg Hart, husband of Peggy Hart. “She was pretty into (this idea) and they were talking about all the developments going up and that there wasn’t adequate fire service to begin with.”
In May, the state’s Department of Finance released data placed Brentwood’s population growth at 3.38 percent in 2016, which made it the fourth fastest growing city in the Bay Area and the 10th fastest in California in 2016. Oakley placed eighth in the Bay Area and 45th in the state with the population growing 2.16 percent.
“Peggy and several of her friends were playing cards and it just popped into her head and she said ‘we should put up a sign’,” said Kris Christensen, who took over organizing funds for the billboard following Peggy’s death. “We’re all so frustrated that nothing is getting done.”
Christensen said she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions on their group.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s funding problem has been a topic of debate in Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay and many towns within East Contra Costa County for over a decade.
Over the last four years, voters within the district have shot down three attempts at raising additional revenue through taxes. On July 1, the district will close Station 94 in Knightsen, bringing the area back down to three fire stations: one station in southwest Brentwood, one station in central Oakley and one station in Discovery Bay.
The goal, for the group, is to make new homeowners aware of what they are buying into, and to emphasize what it will cost, in both lives, insurance and home value.
The Insurance Services Office classifies fire service in a community on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. Areas in the district qualify for either a 4 or a 10. If a home is five miles from a fire station and within 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant, then it qualifies for a 4.
Nancy Kincaid, press secretary for the California Department of Insurance, said that there are no laws that require insurance is affordable, but only that it is fair, adequate and justified.
“Companies can set their rates, based on modelling and it may be that they can justify the rates because the risk has changed so dramatically,” Kincaid said. “They write down how far you are from a fire station, how far from a fire hydrant, how many stations there are… proximity to fire protection is very important.”
Kincaid said that most buyers look for homes with curb appeal, a good school and low crime, but that people should also look at the cost of insurance before they get hit with “sticker shock” on the price.
Residents can look through the California Department of Insurance’s homeowner comparison tool by going to http://bit.ly/CAinsurance. Kincaid also recommends that homeowners read their exclusions and consider making home improvements, such as enclosed eaves, a fire-resistant roof, or tempered glass windows.