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Opening of $3.5M project set for Sept. 11
STATION MFD1-3-1-13-top
Workers on Thursday were busy framing the walls for the fourth Manteca Fire Department station being built on Lathrop Road just west of Union Road. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The best way to ensure the safety of Manteca residents and firefighters has resulted in a decision to build a 120-foot communications tower at the new fire station now under construction on Lathrop Road west of Union Road.

The city originally indicated the tower may need to go as high as 140 feet when they conducted public hearings on the proposal last year. Manteca also explored the possibility of piggybacking on a South San Joaquin irrigation District tower about a third of a mile to the east.

“CenterPoint Business Park being built near the station will have some buildings that are 500,000 square feet,” Fire Chief Kirk Waters said. “We need to have communications that can keep our fighters safe inside a building that size.”

Besides being used for communication between firefighters, the tower also will connect communications with the tower at the police department on Center Street and the just completed tower on Wetmore Street at the new vehicle maintenance facility. The three towers would work in tandem to provide communication between police, firefighters and dispatch to make sure emergency responses are as quick and seamless as possible.

 Waters said the station is currently on target to be completed and up and running by Sept. 11, 2013.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation to Mayor Weatherford and the Council for directing us to move forward with the construction of our much needed fourth fire station,” Waters said. “It will truly be a blessing to all of the residents and businesses outside our five-minute response area in the northwest area of our City - a ton of families, a huge senior citizen community and commercial and industrial projects important to our City.

Council was wise to move forward as now is a great time to build a fire station with construction costs very low”.

The opening of the $3.579 million station 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.

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 the new station will have a full-manned engine with three firefighters and 50 percent of the time we will have a two-man rescue squad.

 “It’s not ideal but it is a good start,” Waters said.

Of the 5,443 calls Manteca Fire handled last year, 3,589 were medical emergencies while only 241 were actual fires. That means most of the calls likely to happen could be reached within five minutes by the two-man rescue squad.

We will staff the fire station by thinning out and relocating existing staff and filling a firefighter vacancy - although not an ideal staffing situation -  it is nevertheless a blessing,” the fire chief said. “We will make it work.” 

“I am confident once the money is available mayor and council will make hiring a full complement of firefighters for the station a priority,” Waters added. “Until then we will do the best we can to serve our citizens with the resources we have.”