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Bethel Island Homes Destroyed By Fire; Were Budget Cuts To Blame?

BETHEL ISLAND, Contra Costa County (KPIX) -- Three homes were destroyed in a fire on Bethel Island in East Contra Costa County Thursday evening.

Firefighters said two homes on the 1200 block of Taylor Road burned to the ground. A third was still standing but was considered a complete loss. No one was injured.

Lauren Duarte's grandmother's house was one of the homes that was destroyed.

"I'm a bit heartbroken. My childhood was kind of in that house," she said tearfully. "It was my grandpa and grandma's house and my grandpa passed a few years ago so all of his stuff was in there and everything we had from him."

Smoke Rises Above a House Fire on Bethel Island in Contra Costa County

Firefighters said it took between 12 and 15 minutes to reach the fire because there is no fire station on Bethel Island.

"Due to budget cuts, this station was closed on this island among other stations in our district," said East Contra Costa fire battalion chief Ross MacCumber.

Once firefighters arrived at the scene, there were more obstacles.

One neighbor said there are no fire hydrants on the island, except a handful on the main street. Firefighters used a hose strung across the nearby levee to access water from the river.

In 2013, another house fire destroyed two homes on the same street, not long after the fire station on the island closed.

MacCumber said the fire district has largely recovered from its financial woes and is in the process of building a new fire station just a few miles away but plans to open the station are stalled for now.

"It's still being built. It's not open yet," he said. "However, we don't have the staffing to open it yet even when it's done."

Firefighters were still investigating the cause of the fire. MacCumber said the destruction is so severe, it could be tough to figure out how the fire started.

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