Archive for the ‘Fire’ Category

Fire fighters protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Contra Costa Supervisors meeting

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Goes into effect tomorrow, Sept. 17; Board supports LAFCO consolidation of fire departments

By Daniel Borsuk

With the clock ticking, a battalion of upset Contra Costa County Fire District fire fighters remotely protested before the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors that they refuse to obey a “draconian” August 13 Contra Costa Health Services order requiring county first responders to be fully vaccinated or face termination.

The county health order that goes into effect Friday, Sept. 17 was drafted by Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano and adopted by the board of supervisors in a closed session because of its employment ramifications for many veteran fire fighters and sheriff deputies and other first responders who might refuse to take the vaccine for personal, political or religious reasons.

Dr. Farnitano claims the tough vaccine employment order for first responders arises at a time the number of COVID-19 patients in county hospitals is on the rise.

But a check with the Contra Costa Health Department’s COVID-19 website shows there are 154 COVID-19 patients in county hospitals. That is down 9.3 percent over the past two weeks, the CCCHD website showed.

In addition, the county health department reported 2,421 active COVID-19 cases. That is down 45.9 percent from two weeks ago.

Nearly 85 percent of Contra Costa residents are vaccinated, county health department data shows. The national vaccination rate is 73.9 percent.

The new vaccine employment edict applies to fire department and sheriff office personnel. There were no personnel from the sheriff’s office who protested against Dr. Farnitano’s vaccination/employment order.

Nearly 40 firefighters, many with more than 20 years in service, from all ranks including engineers, firefighters, and captains, protested against the county health officer’s order.

“This is an infringement of our freedom of choice,” said Collin Spencer, a fire fighter/paramedic.

Upon opposing the vaccine mandate, fire fighter Nick Sandburg, a father of two with a “pregnant wife” commented, “I don’t think the vaccine is effective. I oppose the vaccine mandate. Just give us universal testing.”

“None of us took this lightly,” said District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff. “This is about protecting the public.”

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen was more direct commenting “I am really shocked about the misinformation that our fire fighters have about the COVID-19 vaccine. Somewhere there is a big disconnect.”

It’ll be interesting what the fire fighters will do when the Sept. 17 deadline arrives. The county could be in a major fire crisis if large numbers of well trained, experienced fire fighters are let go especially during the start of the county’s peak fire season.

In the past month, there were 206 vegetation fires that CCCFD responded to and in one day there were seven structure fires, reported Contra Costa County Fire Department Chief Louis Brousard III.

Board Supports LAFCO Consolidation of Fire Departments

Supervisors, serving as commissioners of the Contra Costa County Fire District, pushed along on a 5-0 vote to have the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) to act on consolidating the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and financially struggling East Contra Costa Fire District.

ECCFD board member Joe Young told supervisors he will oppose the consolidation at the district’s board meeting on Sept. 16 because the consolidated district will continue to inadequately fund fire services in Oakley, Brentwood, and Discovery Bay. Young not elaborate at the supervisors’ meeting.

“There are a lot of details that have yet to be addressed on consolidation,” admitted CCCFPD Fire Chief Broussard. “We’ll bring leaders from both organizations to make this a successful annexation.”

While giving Board Chair Diane Burgis credit for being a key player in the merger of the two districts, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia said the newly enlarged fire district will draw fire protection upgrades especially with equipment and personnel once “millions of dollars of Proposition X sales tax funds” pour into the district. Gioia was a big backer for the Prop. X ballot measure to appear on last November’s election ballot.

A proposal to consolidate the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District into the enlarged CCCFPD was not considered by the supervisors. That proposal was dropped.

 

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League of Women Voters to hold online panel discussion on “Wildfires…Be Prepared!” Thursday, Sept. 16

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

By Gail Murray

Contra Costa County has many high fire danger areas.  How will you know when to evacuate? If the power is out, will you be able to use your mobile phone? How can you keep wildfire smoke out of your home?

These and other questions will be the focus of “Wildfires…Be Prepared!” on Thursday, September 16 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. on Zoom.  The program, sponsored by the Contra Costa County Library and the League of Women Voters of both Diablo Valley and West Contra Costa County, will feature a panel of experts to provide information and answer your questions:

  • State Senator Nancy Skinner, funding programs available for wildfire preparation;
  • Assistant Chief Fire Marshall Chris Bachman, how communities can prepare for fire dangers;
  • PG&E leader Mark Van Gorder, plans for Public Safety Power Shutoffs;
  • United Policyholders’ Emily Rogan, how homeowners and renters can prepare for long-term recovery from a fire.

The panel will be moderated by Brentwood City Council Member Karen Rarey.

Learn what a FireWise Council is and how the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) can provide neighborhood communications.

To attend, sign up at the link below:

https://ccclib.bibliocommons.com/events/search/fq=program:(5de8289be1818724000d8cbe)/event/610583113495192a0017d7e1

Check for dates and times when the program will be available afterwards for broadcast  on CCTV.

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OP-ED: Wildfires aren’t the only things burning in California

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Every year seems to bring one challenge after another, and in California, we’re used to tackling them head-on. But while Californians have become accustomed to wildfire season and the unpredictability it brings, patients in Contra Costa County have unfortunately also become accustomed to their quality of emergency medical services (EMS) going up in flames. To make matters worse, our state officials are considering legislation that would guarantee this inadequate patient care continues.

As many Contra Costa residents are well aware, the county fire departments have absorbed ambulance services – previously provided by private operators at a lower cost to taxpayers – to pad their already bloated pensions since 2016. What many residents probably don’t know, is that 60 to 80 percent of the fire department’s budget goes to paying off their pension obligations. The California Pension Tracker notes that the market basis pension liability per household is $81,634. That sum surpasses many residents’ annual income. To fund upcoming pension payments that are currently underfunded, fire unions have called for additional tax measures and service redistribution that ultimately leaves county residents at a disadvantage. So, while residents are seeing costs go up, they’re seeing EMS response times and quality of care diminish. That’s just not right.

In Contra Costa, our ambulance services are dictated by something deemed the Alliance model. This is where the fire department is given complete control of all emergency services, without the typical oversight of an EMS agency. This type of model breeds misbehavior because oversight is virtually non-existent, and the fire department can run ambulance services as they see fit. It’s no wonder that in 2018 the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (CEMSA) suspected that Costa Costa’s largest fire department, ConFire, colluded with the county’s local EMS Agency to rig bidding on contracts that supported public-private partnerships in ambulance services. They simply want the services for themselves, while subcontracting it to a private company for cheap. A win-win for ConFire, but a loss for everyone else.

Assemblyman Tim Grayson introduced legislation that would codify this backwards EMS services model at the state level, and Contra Costa’s misbehavior will become commonplace. Assembly Bill 389 (AB 389) allows a county to develop an EMS program where the fire department holds all decision-making power regarding ambulance services. AB 389 not only hurts the patients EMS programs serve, but it also hurts the programs’ workers too. This legislation hinders the worker’s ability to bargain over working conditions, like fatigue relief, and is one of the many reasons both AFSCME and SEIU have publicly opposed it.

As healthcare workers are already facing higher levels of burnout and exhaustion, now is not the time to diminish what benefits they are rightfully given. Instead of championing measures that support high-functioning workers and elevated patient care, state officials are being hoodwinked by fire unions to further their own agendas. I find it troubling that ConFire gave themselves a 15 percent raise in the middle of a pandemic, rather than putting money towards community services. Yet, state officials still think they are the poster child of success and other counties should follow their lead.

Our elected officials should support legislation where quality care for patients and quality pay for EMS workers are the foundation, not inflating pensions to keep with the current status quo. Fires are raging across our great state, and that’s where fire unions should keep their focus.

Mark Fernwood

Danville

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Antioch apartment fire burns four units, impacts 16 total displacing 21 residents Wednesday

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Con Fire crews battle a fire at an apartment complex on Tabora Drive in Antioch, Wednesday afternoon, July 21, 2021. Photos: ConFire

Started out as vegetation fire; destroys two cars; Red Cross to assist 13 people with housing, so far

By Allen Payton

A fire in an apartment complex on Tabora Drive in Antioch, Wednesday afternoon, burned four units, left 16 units uninhabitable and 21 residents displaced, so far. Of those displaced, eight people were able to find housing on their own, while the Red Cross will be working to help the other 13 residents, tonight, according to Con Fire on-call PIO Joe Ottolini. But that figure could increase.

According to tweets on the Con Fire PIO Twitter feed, a wind-driven vegetation fire off of James Donlon Blvd. and Tabora Drive, that started shortly after 3:00 p.m., burned into a 16-unit, two-story apartment building on Tabora. Four apartments were extensively damaged. A neighboring four-unit building has exterior damage. Two cars were destroyed. Residents of 20 units impacted, with residents of four units displaced. There were no injuries reported.

“It was first thought that there were 20 apartment units that were damaged,” Ottolini said. “But we’re down to four units that are uninhabitable. Battalion Chief Lutzow, who was in charge of the incident, put together the list of people for the Red Cross to try and get the 13 people housed, tonight.”

However, the total number of units affected changed Wednesday evening. According to Antioch District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica who was on the scene meeting with both Chief Lutzow and residents, “16 units are uninhabitable due to lack of power and water.”

“There are people believed to be on their way home so the number of people displaced may increase or stay the same,” Barbanica shared.

“It started somewhere along the pathway near the dumpster area,” he added.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

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Rep. McNerney to host virtual Town Hall on wildfire preparedness and response Thursday

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

With reps from Cal Office of Emergency Services, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, Fede3ral Communications Commission

Devastating and deadly wildfires have blazed across our state last year. With over 4.2 million acres burned, 2020 was the largest wildfires season recorded in California’s history. With extreme hot and dry weather this year, wildfire activity may be more widespread, potentially putting even more people in danger. Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) will be hosting a virtual town hall on Thursday, July 15th from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM to discuss what you can expect this season and answer questions on how you and our community can prepare and stay safe. He will be joined by representatives from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

What: Rep. Jerry McNerney Hosts Virtual Town Hall on Wildfire Preparedness and Response

            Featuring representatives from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and FCC.

Who: Hosted by Congressman Jerry McNerney

Featuring Special Guests:

  • Brian Marshall, Fire and Rescue Chief, Cal OES
  • Steve Aubert, Fire Marshal, ECCFPD
  • Justin Cain, Chief of the Operations and Emergency Management Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, FCC

When: Thursday, July 15th

             6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

To join online:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82594613212?pwd=V1VUblRVekNkczQ2TzF1YldjSDFDdz09

To join by phone:

(669) 900-6833  

Webinar ID: 825 9461 3212

Passcode: 543622 

Participants can join via phone or by using the webinar link above and can submit questions in advance here.

 

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Antioch man among Con Fire multiple pre-July 4th illegal fireworks arrests

Monday, July 5th, 2021

Undercover investigators seize hundreds of pounds of dangerous fireworks in sales busts

By Steve Hill, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District

CONCORD, CALIF., July 4, 2021 – Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) today announced its fire investigators, working undercover, have made multiple fireworks-related arrests in the days leading up to the Independence Day holiday. The law enforcement actions resulted in hundreds of pounds of dangerous fireworks being removed from community streets.

In their continued efforts to take dangerous fireworks off our streets, Con Fire investigators have conducted the following fireworks enforcement actions in recent days:

Hercules fireworks bust on Friday, July 2, 2021. Photos: Con Fire

July 2, 2021 – Hercules Ave. at San Pablo Blvd., Hercules

Con Fire investigators researched and located a social media post advertising illegal fireworks for sale in Contra Costa County. Working undercover, they made contact with the seller and arranged a purchase in the City of Hercules. Surveillance was established at the seller’s residence during which the seller was seen transferring substantial amounts of fireworks from his garage to his vehicle.

En route to the intended meet, investigators initiated a stop, and identified the seller as a Hercules resident who led investigators to fireworks caches at his residence and the residence of another suspect also in possession of a significant amount of illegal fireworks.

In total, 157 pounds of fireworks were confiscated from the two locations

Both individuals were cited on scene. The names of the involved individuals are not being released at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Brentwood Blvd. fireworks bust on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photo: Con Fire

July 3, 2021 – 8000 block of Brentwood Boulevard, Brentwood

Con Fire investigators researched and located a social media post advertising illegal fireworks for sale in Contra Costa County. Working undercover, investigators contacted the seller who was identified to be in the City of Brentwood.

After coordination with East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, a purchase was arranged. Investigators established surveillance at the location arranged. Meeting with the seller, investigators confirmed illegal fireworks were being sold and detained the seller. The illegal fireworks were confiscated, and the seller was issued a citation on scene.

Century Oaks, Brentwood fireworks bust on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Photos: Con Fire

July 3, 2021 – 1600 block Century Oaks, Brentwood

Following an investigative lead, working in cooperation with Brentwood Police, undercover Con Fire investigators made contact with a resident of Antioch. This individual confirmed the tip Con Fire had obtained, offering illegal fireworks for sale. The seller insisted on meeting at a location within the City of Brentwood, where investigators established surveillance ahead of the meet. Meeting with the seller, investigators confirmed illegal fireworks were being sold and detained the seller.

During the investigation, it was learned additional fireworks were stored at the suspect’s home in Antioch. A search of that home recovered additional fireworks. In total, 101 pounds of illegal fireworks were confiscated and the seller was issued a citation.

Arrested for fireworks sales was Gabriel Ramirez, 25, a resident of Antioch.

Con Fire investigators continue to work to remove dangerous fireworks from our communities’ streets, along with putting those who traffic them, out of business. Residents can help them in this important public safety mission by reporting illegal fireworks sales to the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON.

Use of fireworks of any type is illegal in Contra Costa County and exceedingly dangerous during these drought conditions. Con Fire urges anyone observing fireworks being used to report this to their local law enforcement at 1-833-885-2021 and to report all fires immediately to 911.

Con Fire’s Fire Investigation Unit asks residents to help them fight fireworks crime across the county by reporting all fireworks sales to the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON. They caution residents not to hesitate on information that seems too little or unimportant to matter, adding some of the most valuable tips come from residents who were not aware what they saw was very important to the investigation of an incident.

At 1-866-50-ARSON, residents can leave a recorded message about fire-related criminal activity in English or Spanish. Tips can be anonymous, but all tips are treated confidentially. Fire investigators sometimes need additional information, so inclusion of name and phone number is encouraged.

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Con Fire announces multiple illegal fireworks arrests ahead of Independence Day holiday

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Fireworks seized in June 11, 2021 fireworks sales busts in Pittsburg. Photos by Con Fire.

Undercover investigators seize thousands of dollars’ worth of dangerous fireworks in Pittsburg, San Pablo, Antioch and Concord

By Steve Hill, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) announced, Tuesday, its fire investigators, working undercover, have made multiple fireworks-related arrests in June resulting in large quantities of dangerous fireworks being removed from community streets.

In their continued efforts to take dangerous fireworks off our streets, Con Fire investigators have conducted the following fireworks enforcement actions in recent days:

June 11, 2021 – Multiple Locations, Pittsburg

Con Fire investigators conducted an undercover buy of illegal fireworks in the City of Pittsburg, with the initial purchase leading to two additional residences in Pittsburg with several thousand dollars’ worth of fireworks confiscated at each residence. The names of those involved are being withheld pending ongoing investigation.

Fireworks seized in June 15, 2021 fireworks-caused apartment fire in San Pablo.

June 15, 2021 – Crestwood Drive, San Pablo

Fire investigators made a fireworks-related arrest in relation to a fireworks-caused fire on an apartment balcony in the 15000 block of Crestwood Drive, San Pablo. A 16-year-old resident of San Pablo was arrested for Fire to Inhabited Structures (PC § 452(b)) and Possession of Dangerous Fireworks (California Health and Safety Code § 12700). Additional fireworks of the type that caused the fire were located and recovered from the apartment. The juvenile’s name is not being released because of his age. He was released to his parents’ custody after the arrest. Con Fire continues to investigate this case and will refer it to the District Attorney and Con Fire’s Youth Firesetter Program.

Fireworks seized in June 17, 2021 fireworks sales bust in Antioch.

June 17, 2021 – G Street at West 10th Street, Antioch

Based on an undercover buy of illegal fireworks by Con Fire investigators, Kevin Thomas, 25, a resident of Pittsburg, was arrested on charges of Unlawful Advertising of Any Business or Venture Involving Fireworks (California Health and Safety Code § 12670), Unlawful Sale, Transfer, Giving, Delivery or Other Conveyance of Title of Any Dangerous Fireworks (California Health and Safety Code § 12676), and Unlawful Possession of Dangerous Fireworks Without Holding a Valid Permit (California Health and Safety Code § 12677). The fireworks intended to be sold were seized as evidence. Thomas was identified as an active parolee, recently released from the California Department of Corrections, as the result of a robbery conviction. The seller was issued a criminal citation.

Fireworks seized in June 21, 2021 fireworks sales bust in Concord.

June 21, 2021 — Port Chicago Highway at Bates Ave., Concord

Con Fire investigators researched and located a social media post advertising illegal fireworks for sale in Contra Costa County. Acting undercover, investigators contacted the seller and arranged a purchase. Meeting with the seller, investigators confirmed illegal fireworks were being sold and arrested Thomas Daeshawn, 22, a resident of Concord, seizing 90 pounds of fireworks as evidence. The seller was identified as being on probation in Alameda County as a result of a robbery conviction. The seller was issued a criminal citation and Con Fire investigators are following up with Alameda County for a possible probation violation. Daeshawn was cited for Unlawful Sale, Transfer, Giving, Delivery or Other Conveyance of Title of Any Dangerous Fireworks (California Health and Safety Code § 12676), and Unlawful Possession of Dangerous Fireworks Without Holding a Valid Permit (California Health and Safety Code § 12677).

Con Fire investigators continue to work to remove dangerous fireworks from our communities’ streets, along with putting those who traffic them, out of business. Residents can help them in this important public safety mission by reporting illegal fireworks sales to the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON.

Use of fireworks of any type is illegal in Contra Costa County and exceedingly dangerous during these drought conditions. Con Fire urges anyone observing fireworks being used to report this to their local law enforcement non-emergency line and to report all fires immediately to 911.

Con Fire’s Fire Investigation Unit asks residents to help them fight the crime of arson across the county by calling the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON. They caution residents not to hesitate on information that seems too little or unimportant to matter, adding some of the most valuable tips come from residents who were not aware what they saw was very important to the investigation of an incident.

At 1-866-50-ARSON, residents can leave a recorded message about fire-related criminal activity in English or Spanish. Tips can be anonymous, but all tips are treated confidentially. Fire investigators sometimes need additional information, so inclusion of name and phone number is encouraged.

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Suspect arrested for Memorial Day fireworks-related apartment fire in Antioch

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

James Sossaman, 44, Antioch resident, arrested May 31 for Unlawfully Causing a Fire (PC § 452(c)) and Felon in Possession of a Firearm (PC § 29800) and aerial view of May 31 Hargrove St., Antioch fire reveals area of grassfire origin and damaged apartment buildings. Photos: Con Fire

Investigators determine vegetation fire that destroyed eight apartments, displaced 40 residents caused by fireworks.

By Steve Hill, Public Information Officer, Con Fire

Fireworks seized in conjunction with May 31 Antioch grassfire that led to destruction of eight apartments and displacement of 40 residents. Photo: Con Fire

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) today, June 1, 2021, announced its fire investigators made a fireworks-related arrest yesterday in relation to a fireworks-caused fire behind apartments in the 1700-block of Hargrove Street in Antioch that destroyed eight units and displaced 40 residents.

James Sossaman, 44, an Antioch resident, was arrested for Unlawfully Causing a Fire to Inhabited Structures (PC § 452(b)) and Felon in Possession of a Firearm (PC § 29800) and transported by Antioch Police to Martinez Detention Facility for booking.

Con Fire responded to multiple reports of a vegetation fire behind apartments in the 1700 block of Hargrove in Antioch, May 31 just after 5:30 p.m. While responding, Engine 81 reported a large column of black smoke from a half mile away. Upon arrival, the grass fire had already extended from the grass into a two-story apartment complex and a second-alarm response was ordered. An aggressive fire attack followed in an attempt to slow the spread of fire.

Through witness interviews and surveillance videos, investigators located the person responsible for the grass fire and determined it was caused by Sossaman throwing an M-100 pyrotechnic device into the field behind the apartment complex. Through the investigation, Sossaman was also found to be on felony probation. During a search of his apartment, a loaded firearm was located along with several other illegal fireworks.

Weather conditions at the time — temperatures in the upper 90s with wind gusts between 15-20 mph – quickly fed the fire into the neighboring apartments. Crews, including East Contra Costa Fire’s Battalion 5, were able to stop grassfire spread across the gully and protect the apartments on the west side of the incident.

Additional companies worked to extinguish the structure fires and search 10 separate apartments that were either on fire or in immediate danger of catching fire. Strong winds blew the fire across a breezeway to adjoining apartments. A coordinated fire attack resulted in the fire being extinguished at approximately 6:26 p.m. Crews were on scene for approximately three hours to overhaul and salvage as much as possible.

The fire displaced 40 residents and the American Red Cross assisted with housing for those displaced.

No firefighters were injured. Two civilians were transported to hospital for smoke inhalation.

Con Fire’s Fire Investigation Unit urges residents to help them fight the crime of arson across the county by calling the Arson Tip Line at 1-866-50-ARSON. They caution residents not to hesitate on information that seems too little or unimportant to matter, adding some of the most valuable tips come from residents who were not aware what they saw was very important to the investigation of an incident.

At 1-866-50-ARSON, residents can leave a recorded message about fire-related criminal activity in English or Spanish. Tips can be anonymous, but all tips are treated confidentially. Fire investigators sometimes need additional information, so inclusion of name and phone number is encouraged.

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