It’s safe to say there aren’t a lot of warm cuddly feelings about Lathrop Manteca Fire District circulating around French Camp at the moment.
News about Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely’s initial thoughts of consolidating with the French Camp –McKinley Fire District he shared with his governing board last week wasn’t exactly met with cheers around the French Camp fire house.
The following is an email French Camp-McKinley Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Fred Manding circulated on Friday, “Good morning everyone, in the Manteca Bulletin this morning there was an article written by Jason Campbell, apparently Chief Neely wants to consolidate our fire district with his. At no point did Chief Neely reach out to me to discuss this, so there will be no comment from our fire district or our staff regarding this. Please pass this on to your respective personnel. "Just smile and wave boys".
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Be safe and hydrate.”
Consolidation of fire districts in San Joaquin County has been the subject of a Local Area Formation Commission study as well as a Grand Jury report regarding the continued feasibility of providing adequate emergency response times.
Neither report generated much more than a buzz.
That may be changing.
There are some that believe Ripon Consolidated Fire District’s overwhelming rejection of a parcel tax to provide needed 12-man staffing of a new fire station on River Road at North Ripon Road is the canary in the proverbial coal mine.
In other words they believe if Ripon Consolidated Fire can’t find a way to fund urban-level response times as the city grows, consolidation could be an answer.
There’s only one problem with such a solution — you still have to come up with considerable money as whatever a consolidated fire districts saves it will be part of — but not all — duplicated administrative overhead as larger departments tend to have a more complex command structure..
About 25 years ago various South County fire agencies talked about consolidation with the rank and file believing it was inevitable. At the time the proposal floating about was to consolidate the City of Tracy, Tracy Rural, what was then the Manteca-Lathrop Rural Fire District, and the City of Manteca.
Firefighters seem to favor it but not so much elected officials.
Manteca, for example, saw it taking on additional costs involving the weaker sisters — rural districts that were struggling to fund fulltime personnel. At the same time there was a concern it would dilute service in the cities of Tracy and Manteca.
The effort did lead to a merger of the City of Tracy and Tracy Rural in 1999 as the South County Fire Authority. At the same time Lathrop Manteca Fire District and the City of Manteca instituted a system where the department with the closest engine to a fire, accident or medical emergency would by dispatched automatically regardless of which jurisdiction the incident is located.
Manteca, it should be noted, believes it has advantages of being a true full service city that provides all of the municipal services its citizens require from drinking water and wastewater treatment to garbage collection, fire service and police protection.
Manteca has been able to use being a full service city to its advantage in coming up with innovative ways to address state mandates, solve problems and keep a long-term lid on rates such is being done through the food waste to fuel project now underway.
But then again as firefighters like to say, people whose house is on fire or have a loved one suffering a heart attack don’t care what the name of the agency is on the first responder vehicle that arrives as long as it gets there as quick as possible.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org