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Fire service: Bargain at $99 per capita
Manteca fire costs lowest among six cities
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A Manteca firefighter inspects the damage from a garage fire. - photo by Bulletin photo

The odds are if you called 9-1-1 to summon the Manteca Fire Department in 2009 it wasn’t due to fire but a medical emergency.
And it took fire crews an average of 4.43 minutes to respond at a cost of $99 per capita.

Those two statistics – response time and actual costs – are two key performance indicators for the fire department as outlined the 2009 annual report released last week by Fire Chief Kirk Waters.

Manteca is the least expensive per capita at $99 in terms of operational costs in a comparison with five other similar Northern California cities. The next closest is Turlock at $111, then Lodi at $150, Woodland at $168, Livermore/Pleasanton at $186, and Folsom at $225.

The city was able to retain cost of below $100 per capita after the firefighters agreed to allow the city to back off on its commitment to maintain minimal staffing on all shifts to reduce overtime, forgo 4 percent pay raises, and agreed to furloughs. The command structure was also reorganized to eliminate positions. It was all a part of the fire department’s contribution to $11.3 million in budget cuts needed to balance this fiscal year’s general fund.

More critical to those who require help fast – especially heart attack victims and those with a fire – is the response time.
The operational goal as outlined in Manteca’s general plan is for an average five-minute response time.

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. A call being placed, equipment dispatching and the engine actually rolling out of a fire station consume the first two and a half minutes.

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

Other performance measures include fire losses. Manteca lost property valued at $2.78 million in fires during 2009 compared to $1.03 million in 2008.

Another goal is to have an effective workforce of 15 firefighters at a working structure fire within nine minutes of dispatch 90 percent of the time. Manteca hit that mark in January of 2009 but attained it less than 15 percent in six months. Once a fourth station is built and staffed on North Union Road near Del Webb, nearly 3,000 homes will be brought under the five-minute response time which in turn will improve structure fire staffing responses as well.

Manteca firefighters handled 4,787 calls overall in 2009. That was down just 36 calls from 2008 levels.

Emergency medical calls led the responses with 3,016. Next there were 274 fire calls. There were 807 other emergencies that included vehicle accidents, hazmat calls, and electrical concerns. There were 334 service calls that included smoke/odor investigations, public/police assist and false alarms.

Among the highlights of 2009 for the Manteca Fire Department:
•The institution of a cost recovery program for emergency response to vehicle accidents not involving residents living in either the 95336 or 95337 Manteca ZIP codes.
•Participated in the planning and execution of an evacuation exercise for major flooding in the South Manteca area within Reclamation District 17.
•The expansion of the Seniors Aiding Fire Effort volunteer program to 25 members.
•The` city also put the $1 million 100-foot aerial platform truck into servcie that was staffed with nine firefighters using receipts from the half cent public safety tax.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail