Rapid growth in southwest Manteca has ballooned response times to medical and fire emergencies in that portion of the city to eight minutes.
And if the closest engine housed at the Union Road station just north of the 120 Bypass is tied up on another call, the time for another engine company to reach the area jumps to 10 minutes.
The city’s policy — as outlined in the general plan that serves as Manteca’s blueprint for growth — is to target five minute response times or less.
Five minutes is the upper limit for the best outcome in the event of either a fire or medical emergency.
The changing dynamics — triggered by substantial growth across South Manteca from Main Street to the edge of Oakwood Shores where developers are on pace to have 1,000 developable lots in place in the coming months — is creating a major challenge for city leaders.
The Union Road station, built in 2002 to accommodate a second engine company that has yet to be added, is by far the busiest in Manteca.
It handled 2,963 calls in 2022 — 33 percent higher than the next closest among the city’s five fire stations.
At the same time, the city hasn’t even locked down a site for a sixth fire station in southwest Manteca despite six projects that have broken ground that have close to 2,500 approved lots for homes.
Besides the need for another fire station, in order to keep service levels from dropping the city will need to outfit two more frontline engine companies — one at Union Road and another at the future station.
That represents the need for 18 additional firefighters for 24/7 staffing.
At $130,000 for salary and benefits for a typical entry level firefighter, that represents a need to eventually add another $2.34 million a year in personnel.
The city has 45 budgeted positions to fully staff the existing five stations.
Some of the positions are vacant and the city is recruiting to fill them. In the meanwhile, engine companies are being staffed with three firefighters 24/7 using overtime to do so.
The new fire station would need a $1.1 million fire engine that can take 2 to 3 years to build once it is ordered.
The city already has ordered a replacement for its aging 100-foot aerial ladder truck in the form of a $1.8 million tiller truck. It’s an aerial ladder truck that has a secondary driver in the back. The city is targeted to take delivery in spring of next year.
Two replacement fire engines have also been ordered. They are expected to arrive in Manteca in 2025 at a cost of $2.2 million.
Based on the annual fire department report presented to the City Council for 2022, even with the three new replacement engines, the overall Manteca fleet has other engines that have surpassed their rated frontline life or are close to it.
Manteca is now the second busiest fire agency in San Joaquin County.
The city’s fire department handled 10,852 calls in 2022.
That means every 48.4 minutes last year a City of Manteca fire engine was dispatched to an emergency.
While that is way behind the City of Stockton with a population of 320,000 people, it surpasses the South County Regional Fire Authority (SSJCFA) that serves the City of Tracy and surrounding areas.
The SSJCFA — with almost 50,000 more people it serves at 120,000 versus Manteca’s 85,000 and a significantly larger geographical coverage area — had 10,713 calls in 2022.
That information is part of the data covered in the 2022 annual City of Manteca Fire Department report released this month.
Other data shows:
*Manteca’s fire calls in the past five years have increased by 43 percent while the city’s population has risen by 17 percent.
*During the same time period between 2017 and 2022 minimum daily staffing levels have increased from 14 to 15 firefighters and the fifth fire station was added at Woodward Avenue and Atherton Drive.
*Medical emergencies — including most vehicle accidents — accounted for almost 63 percent of all calls in 2022.
*Nearly 10 percent of the department’s calls can be attributed to situations involving the homeless population.
*The $17.3 million fire department budget reflects an annual cost of $181 for every man, woman, and child in Manteca.
*The voter approved Measure M half cent public safety sales tax approved by voters in 2008 funds 18 of the 48 front-line suppression personnel of the department. That reflects 37 percent of the staffing.
*Fire prevention investigated 304 cases of weed abatement issues in 2022. There was a 92 percent compliance rate on the first notice. There were 27 properties cited for lack of compliance with appropriate steps being taken.
*There were 76 nuisance complaints such as junk and debris that in some cases literally covered an entire backyard that the department handled.
*The age of the city’s front-line apparatus is reflected in the years they were built and put in service — 2007, 2008, 2015, 2021, and 2021.
*The reserve apparatus used when a frontline engine is down for repairs or maintenance or else additional units are needed in a major fire have been in service since 1997, 2003, and 2007.
Manteca, with 18,000 more residents and 3,022 more calls than the City of Lodi has the same number of manned frontline apparatus — four engine companies and a truck (aerial ladder) company although they operate out of four stations as opposed to Manteca’s five.
Tracy (SSJCFA) runs seven engines and one truck out of seven stations.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email, firstname.lastname@example.org