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100-foot aerial platform truck moving to Powers

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POSTED May 20, 2013 12:14 a.m.

By DENNIS WYATT

The Bulletin

Manteca Fire’s 100-foot aerial platform fire truck will be housed at the Powers Avenue station once the fourth station now being built on Lathrop Road west of Union Road is completed in September.

It is part of a strategy to further enhance the effectiveness of Manteca’s firefighting resources.

“There is less grass fires handled by (the Powers) station plus it is closer to downtown and still close to the freeways,” noted Fire Chief Kirk Waters during a talk Thursday at the Manteca Noon Rotary meeting at Isadore’s.

Waters said there will be some minor modifications made to the Powers station to accommodate the 100-foot aerial platform truck.

The platform truck is critical to fight fires at large distribution centers or in situations such as downtown where there is a high density of buildings. It also is effective in  quickly getting crews to the roofs of two-story homes to ventilate them in a bid to reduce fire from spreading.

The fourth station targeted to open Sept. 11 will be staffed without hiring additional firefighters.  To do that, the station will be staffed 50 percent of the time with a three-man engine. The balance of the time it will have a two-man rescue squad stationed there. The station’s coverage area can be accessed by three other stations - including the Lathrop Manteca Rural Fire District station on Lathrop at Austin roads in the event of a fire without having to worry about train traffic.

The decision to move the aerial platform engine is part of an ongoing effort by the department to analyze need Sand maximize resources.

Since 2006, the department has cut back its annual budget by $2.8 million without layoffs of personnel or reducing the number of frontline firefighters. Before the Great Recession started, the department’s administration had a fire chief, four division chiefs, and five people staffing fire prevention. Today there is just the fire chief and a secretary.

There are no division chiefs. Instead, they have been replaced with shift commanders assigned to engine companies.

Firefighters also took significant compensation cuts as did other municipal employees.

Waters called the Measure M half cent public safety sales tax “a blessing” as it picks up the tab for a third of the department’s personnel. Without it, at least one fire station would have to be shuttered.

 Also playing a key role in stretching the effectiveness of limited financial resources are three volunteer groups. They include 30 reserve firefighters, nearly 100 Community Emergency Response Team  (CERT) members and volunteers with the Seniors Aiding Fire Effort (SAFE).

Reserves are the only ones that receive any form of compensation . It is actually a small stipend that helps cover expenses related to the purchase of required turnout gear and such. All reserves respond to structure fires to help the department assemble the ideal 15 firefighters needed to properly fight such fires. They also do the laborious and time  consuming clean-up work freeing up the paid firefighters to respond to other calls.

The CERT volunteers are called out for major incidents and are trained to assist in major catastrophes such as earthquakes. They also have helped police search for missing kids and assist with parades.

The SAFE volunteers do mail runs between stations, retrieve backboards and other department equipment from hospitals after patients are transported, and stand guard over equipment when firefighters are training and are called away for an emergency. They also do follow up inspections on weed abatement plus some follow up on business fire inspections. They also assist with fire safety demonstrations at the schools.

The Manteca SAFE is only one of two such volunteer units in  the country.

The fact two major freeways - the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 - pass through Manteca and Interstate 5 is nearby means Manteca Fire units respond to a higher number of accidents than typical for a community of 71,000 residents.

Waters said the department bills insurance companies for their services when the party that causes the mishap is not a resident of the 95336 or 95337 ZIP codes. Last year, roughly $80,000 was collected through such billing or almost the equivalent of a firefighter’s salary.

Manteca had 306 fires out of 5,937 calls in 2012. It was the second highest on record eclipsed only by 336 calls in 2004. Even being the second worst year for fires numbers, the actual losses were low coming in at $2.27 million. Only two years were lower than that since 2007 with 2011 being the highest with losses of $3.23 million.

Emergency calls are up 26 percent in Manteca over the past three years.

Manteca Fire handled 5,937 emergency calls in 2012 compared to 4,712 in 2010.

Almost two thirds of all calls (3,648 of 5,937) handled by firefighters were emergency medical calls.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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