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Improving heart attack survival rates
Work may begin next month on Mantecas 4th fire station
Mantecas fourth fire station could break ground in November. - photo by RYAN BALBUENA

Heart attack and stroke victims in northwest Manteca will have the odds of surviving increased when work is completed in late 2013 on the city’s fourth fire station.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve a design/build agreement with Diede Construction - the same firm that built the new animal shelter and new vehicle maintenance facility - to start work on the fire station in November. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The fire station on the north side of Lathrop Road on the southern edge of Del Webb at Woodbridge west of Union Road is targeted for completion in the fall of 2013. It is the fourth municipal building to be constructed in a two-year period representing a $15 million investment. Work is now underway on the transit station at Moffat Boulevard and South Main Street that is scheduled to be finished in April 2013.

Manteca collected the largest chunk of the funds for the projects from growth fees and federal  grants. By collecting most of the money needed in advance the city has avoided for the most part the cost of borrowing. And - as an added bonus - the weak economy has meant more competitive construction bids to further save tax dollars.

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.

The majority of Manteca Fire’s 5,443 calls last year were for medical emergencies (3,589) with only 241 actual fires.

Normally, the opening of a new station would require hiring nine firefighters for 24/7 coverage with an average annual payroll and benefit cost exceeding $1 million. That would impact the general fund.

Fire Chief Kirk Waters has devised a plan that will require only $165,000 more a year - $125,000 for staffing and $40,000 for utilities and upkeep - to open the Lathrop Road fire station. To avoid initially impacting the stressed general fund, the City Council will cover that tab by dipping into the $8 million public safety endowment account.

That account was created after the developers of Del Webb at Woodridge and Union Ranch agreed to a $7,000 per home [public safety endowment fee for police and fire services. The fee has only be paid by the two subdivisions that also happen to be among those benefitting from the new fire station.

The fund is being used currently to pay for one police officer and the four-member gang unit with the Manteca Police Department.

Fifty percent of the time the department will have a fully-manned engine with three firefighters and 50 percent of the time they will have a two-man rescue squad until such time the city can afford a full three

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.

The $3,579,000 cost of building the station will be covered by $2,279,000 in government building facility fees collected on new growth and a $1.3 million no interest loan from the endowment fund.

That $1.3 million will be paid back with the proceeds of the sale of the former carpenter’s union hall on Union Road north of Louise Avenue that the city bought a few years back for possible conversion to a fire station. A local non-profit is currently negotiating to purchase the building.