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Lathrop Manteca will add paramedics this year to fire engines

Just 10 years ago Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely was forced to tell four firefighters they didn’t have a job anymore.

But by the end of this year, he’ll likely be placing around a dozen paramedics onto engines and providing advanced life support to the wider community – the fruition of a multi-year effort to increase the scope of practice of first responders in Lathrop and the rural areas that surround it.

On Thursday night, the Lathrop Manteca Fire District Board of Directors approved a plan to move forward with the proposal to add ALS services to district. It will allow on-engine paramedics to potentially perform the same life-saving measures as an ambulance paramedic when the situation calls for it.

The district has already earned a federal grant that will pay for the paramedic certification of nine EMTs – saving the district $500,000 that will also cover the backfill costs for personnel while in school – and with Measure C funding available to cover the cost of the starting the program.

But getting over the regulatory hurdles to execute the plan has been a different matter entirely.

Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely told the board on Thursday night that the matter before them was “historic” because of the increase in the level of service and the beginning of a new era.

“Our county’s EMS agency has quite the reputation,” Division Chief Larry Madoski said after the board voted to approve the plan. “In fact, there has not been one person who hasn’t done a double-take and said, ‘you plan to do what?’

“After a while, you kind of feel like you’re in the movie Top Gun and someone’s about to hit the brakes – after initially being told that they didn’t want to meet with us they decided to sit down and discuss the plan and both myself and the Fire Chief were completely shocked at the response and the constructive feedback we got.”

The district still has to go through a negotiation process in order to enter into an agreement with the agency, and Madoski said that if that will be anything like the experiences that nearby agencies Stockton and Tracy had while doing the same, it’ll be “no small feat.”

“Time will tell, but really to just play a small part in something so impactful is a humbling experience,” Madoski said. “This is an all hands on deck type of project with firefighters in school, policies to be written, and a community that passed a measure when we needed it most – Gene (Neely) was right when he said this is a historic experience.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.