Manteca will lose funding for six firefighters within 11 months.
That’s when the two-year $1.27 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant expires.
Unless the City Council is able to fund those positions through the general fund or Measure M public safety sales tax receipts it means the city’s rescue squad unit will no longer be staffed 24/7.
And based on a rescue squad report Interim Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd is presenting Tuesday to the council the loss of manpower likely will mean increased response times for southwest Manteca that is covered by the Union Road station. The rescue squad was stationed at Union Road in a bid to reduce response times to the southwest portion of Manteca around Woodward Park where more than 1,500 homes are outside the targeted 5 minute response time for medical emergencies and fires.
The report shows that the city’s largest fire coverage area — District 2 assigned to the Union Road station — had a 25 second drop in the average response time after the rescue squad was staffed 24/7. The average response time was 4 minutes and 11 seconds, the fastest in the city. The District 2 station handles 37 percent of all emergency calls. It’s coverage area includes the 120 Bypass, Bass Pro Shops, Big League Dreams, Kaiser Hospital, Wal-Mart, and Costco.
There was a slight improvement to calls in southeast Manteca near Woodward Park with the addition of the rescue squad being manned 24/7. The response times improved six seconds to five minutes and 43 seconds. The lack of a station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue means a typical call in southeast Manteca takes 47 seconds longer for fire personnel to arrive on scene than in District 1 — the next longest — that is covered from the Powers avenue station. The Woodward Park area that would incorporate the city’s fifth fire district once the station is b built has response times that are now a minute and 26 seconds longer than the citywide average of four minutes and 27 seconds.
Shipherd noted the calls improved in District 2 thanks in a large part to the rescue squad being able to respond when the fire engine truck crew that is also assigned to the station is responding to a call.
It should be noted that while citywide emergency response improved by only six seconds that the number of overall calls handled by the fire department increased.
Manteca’s medical and fire emergency calls have been on a steady upswing.
Manteca Fire responded to over 6,600 calls in 2015 reflecting a 12 percent increase over 2014 responses.
Manteca Fire handled 5,993 emergency calls in 2014 compared 5,854 emergency calls in 2013. The 2015 calls were up 25 percent compared to 4,712 calls in 2010.
Among cities in the region of roughly the same population Manteca has the lowest firefighters per capita. Manteca’s population in 2014 was 71,948. Manteca was served by 41 firefighters. Turlock with 70,364 residents had 45 firefighters, Lodi with 63,338 residents had 54 firefighters, Folsom with 73,096 residents had 55 firefighters, and West Sacramento with 49,891 residents had 62 firefighters. Since then the SAFER grant brought Manteca’s firefighter personnel up to 47.
The SAFER grant was looked upon as a way to ramp up staffing for the fifth fire station so the city could staff it when it was built.
Six firefighters would allow the city to open the Atherton/Woodward station with a rescue squad just as they did with the Lathrop Road fire station. It takes nine firefighters to staff a fire engine 24/7.
Such an approach not only allows the city to ease into full staffing but it also allows the city to cover 90 percent of all calls that are medical related.
The council is scheduled to discuss budget priorities with staff later this month for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.