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Lathrop Manteca Fire secures swift water rescue unit
water boat
Board members of the Lathrop Manteca Fire District stand with a Governor’s Office of Emergency Services swift water rescue unit that the agency just received.

This week the Lathrop Manteca Fire District announced that they had received one of the coveted units after the City of Stockton turned theirs back over to the state.  It created the opportunity for the agency to spearhead a South County cooperative that will provide a vital resource if  another levee breach threatens the lives and property of those living in the area.

According to Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely, the delivery – which includes a Ford F-450 tow vehicle and a trailer that has two boats and motors and all of the equipment necessary for swift water rescue in flood environments – will benefit more than just Lathrop residents.

“Right now, we’re looking at a regional approach this because it requires 15 personnel and that’s a lot of people to put on a single piece of apparatus,” Neely said. “We have a letter of intent from the City of Tracy to be a part of a team, and the City of Manteca has given me a verbal commitment and we’re still waiting on the written one.

“By pulling those resources together we can provide a vital service to not just residents in our district, but the entire South County.”

While the South County has not experienced an extensive flood since 1997, there have been multiple close calls that culminated in 2017 when hundreds of homeowners living south of the \120 Bypass were evacuated after a levee breached in South Manteca and was subsequently saved before it led to widespread flooding.

While the City of Lathrop is working with the City of Manteca and Reclamation District 17 to provide the urban level of flood protection that would withstand a 200-year flood, the threat of flooding is still a very real possibility for residents not just in South County areas that have flooded before, but even areas that one wouldn’t think could potentially be flooded.

When Lathrop released mapping showing the portions of the city that are within the 100-year and 200-year flood plains, the entire city limits fell into one of those two categories, even those on the eastern side of I-5 – which was bulldozed with dirt in 1997 as a last line of defense against floodwaters that ravaged rural Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.

By having the apparatus – which will for the time being be stored at Station 35 in River Islands – on hand, Neely believes that it could be pivotal when disaster strikes.

“Having that capability here in San Joaquin County is huge because we have one of the highest threats in San Joaquin County with potential levee failures and past levee failures,” Neely said. “Having that resource available to respond at a moment’s notice instead of hours or even days could make the difference when lives are on the line.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.