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Manteca Police respond to OES call for assistance

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POSTED August 30, 2013 1:29 a.m.

More than 4,000 firefighters are battling the Rim Fire that has now burned almost 200,000 acres and is threatening thousands of mountain homes.

But Manteca’s finest have answered the call to provide assistance as well.

On Tuesday, the Manteca Police Department sent four of its officers – three assigned to School Resource duty and one to the traffic division – up to the command center after a call for immediate mutual aid was sent out to departments throughout the valley.

According to Manteca Police Lt. Tony Souza, the request came from the California Office of Emergency Services after the fire starting burning towards a heavily populated area. Immediate evacuation notices were mandated. With resources already stretched thin, the Manteca contingent, Souza said, was immediately put to work.

“It was a situation where they stayed active the entire time they were up there,” he said – noting that they returned back to Manteca Thursday morning. “It wasn’t like they responded and were standing around at the command post and were waiting for something to do. And we utilized officers that wouldn’t deplete our field force or cut down on our patrol operations at all.

“Right now we’re on a stand-by status waiting to see which way the fire burns. They may request us to go back up there, and we’re ready in case that happens.”

Getting called back, however, might be for something other than just notifying residents that they need to leave.

Part of what happens when the OES issues an evacuation order, Souza said, is an agreement with the homeowners that they’ll do everything within their power to protect their property. Naturally that includes thwarting the wildland fire that has already destroyed more than 100 buildings, but it also means preventing a situation that might invite unwanted visitors.

“There’s an obligation there that says they’re going to take care of your property, and that also means protecting it from looters or burglars who might think that it’s an easy target,” he said. “There are people that try and take advantage of those areas when situations like this occur, and that’s why they get the police involved – it’s not just working to get people out, but providing services up there as well.”

Much like the Manteca Fire Department, the police will be refunded for the hours that the city invested in the efforts.

To contact Jason Campbell, email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call (209) 249-3544.

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