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Volunteers keep fire station open
Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department Chief Gene Neely holds up a photo of the districts first fire station and engine from 1936. The fire district marked 75 years of service Saturday with an open house. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Reassessed commercial property values, a devastated housing market and a failed parcel tax didn’t leave the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District Board of Directors a whole lot of options.

The four firefighters that were preliminarily laid off would have to permanently be cut, and at least one of the district’s four stations would have to be browned out because the reduction in staffing levels.

Safe to say that looking at the future could be done without shades on.

But with the support of the 25 reserve firefighters the district has on hand, keeping Station 32 on S. Union Road open is now a real possibility. For the last several weeks reserves have been staffing the station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a non-engine vehicle to provide emergency medical services to the rural residents in the area.

According to Fire Chief Gene Neely, it’s still early in the process but the goal is have at least one reserve firefighter sleep at the facility and possibly begin a rotating shift in the coming months if the pilot program ends up working out successfully.

“The volume of calls out there is really low, and when an incident happens we’re still sending our other engine from within Lathrop,” Neely said. “What we’re trying to do now is provide some EMS services in the area by having reserves staff that station. It seems to be going well now, and we’re looking at this in a number of different ways.”

Because full-time staffing at the station had to be cut, Neely needed to execute handshake agreements with neighboring agencies such as Tracy Rural, Ripon Consolidated and Manteca Fire departments. So far each of those agencies has helped to cover calls in that portion of the district when assistance was required.

While Lathrop-Manteca does plan on honoring their mutual-aid agreements, a unit from Station 32 on S. Union more than likely won’t be the ones responding in the event one is called. First a callback would be instituted for off-duty firefighters and then reserves would be called in to staff the stations that are left vacant if a scene did require that much manpower.

Even though it’s a program that’s in its “infancy” stage, Neely said it should give residents in that area peace of mind knowing that they will once again have medical first responders that are only moments away if the need were to arise.

“It’s a program that will attend to the medical needs of that southern area of the district,” he said. “It’s coming along, and it’s something that we’re going to continue to work on.”