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2014 opening for 4th fire station
Requests for construction proposals go out this month
The site of Mantecas fourth fire station that will open in 2014. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA

Innovative thinking coupled with Measure M public safety sales tax receipts will make sure that Manteca’s fourth fire station is manned when it is opened in 2014.

During the mid-1980s when Manteca last faced a municipal budget crisis, the city had built the Union Road fire station but was unable to open it due to a lack of money in the general fund to pay for the necessary firefighters.

Requests for proposals to finish the design and construct the new fire station going on the north side of Lathrop Road just west of Union Road will go out this month. Fire Chief Kirk Waters told the City Council last week the goal is to start construction in early 2013 and have the fire station up and running in 2014.

A fire station typically requires nine firefighters to man it 24/7 at a cost of over $1 million annual once salary, benefits, and worker’s compensation costs are factored into the equation.

Manteca will shoulder only $125,000 a year in additional costs for one additional firefighter plus $40,000 a year in operational costs for the station for things such as electricity, phone service, and other reoccurring costs.

“Fifty percent of the time we will have a full-manned engine (with three firefighters) and 50 percent of the time we will have a two-man rescue squad,” Waters said. “It’s not ideal but it is a good start.”

Of the 5,443 calls Manteca Fire handled last year, 3,589 were medical emergencies while only 241 were actual fires.

The half cent public safety sales tax approved by voters allowed the city to staff a fourth engine company in advance of the building of the fourth station. Nine firefighters were hired to man the 100-foot aerial platform that was the second engine company added to the Union Road fire station. A drop in general fund revenues, though, has forced the department to “brown out” the aerial platform whenever manpower drops below the three-man minimum per engine per shift due to vacation or illness. When that happens, the department mans the two-man rescue squad, And if for some reason two firefighters are not able to work a particular shift, the other firefighter is placed on another engine company.

Usually the city has to spend in excess of $500,000 on a front-line engine to open a new station. Manteca will be able to shift either the engine at Union Road or the fire squad to the new station depending upon staffing.

The station opening will bring 3,000 homes in northwest Manteca within the targeted five-minute response time. There were over 500 emergency calls in the area that firefighters arrived at outside the five-minute target.

The five minute response time is a mantra for those who make a living putting out fires and responding to heart attacks.

Having firefighters and equipment on the scene of a fire or medical emergency within five minutes is essential for two reasons:

•The chance of surviving a heart attack or major trauma starts dropping off rapidly after five minutes.

•”Flash over” when fires literally erupt occur within five minutes of the first visible flame.

It sounds like a lot of time, but it really isn’t. The first two and a half minutes are consumed by a call being placed, equipment dispatching and the engine actually rolling out of a fire station.

That leaves 180 seconds for firefighters to reach a structure fire or a major medical emergency.

The proposed station on the north side of Lathrop Road west of Union Road is part of the 1,406-home Del Webb at Woodbridge neighborhood. The design for the station incorporates single-family home elements on the sides that will face future homes and commercial -style elements for the sides facing future retail development. Construction materials will employ cement plaster and stone veneer for the exterior walls of the 7,173-square-foot structure. The elevations will also include aluminum windows and a tile roof.

A 7-foot masonry fence will be located along the northern and southern sides of the property while a seven-foot decorative metal fence will go along the east side. That is so firefighters exiting the station can see pedestrians on a walking trail that will run along the east side of the site.

The city is currently negotiating the sale of the old Carpenter’s Hall at Union Road and Louise Avenue they bought a few years back for possible conversion to a fire station. With the proceeds from that sale plus what fire facility fees have been collected from growth there would be a $1.3 million shortfall of the $3.579 million needed to build the station.

The council plans on using a $1.3 million loan from the Public Safety Endowment