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Manteca, Lathrop send firefighters with EMT training to help SoCal

Seven firefighters from Manteca and Lathrop are currently helping with the COVID-19 pandemic that is battering Southern California – using their EMT skills to supplement staffing levels at hospitals inundated with patients.

And more may be on the way soon.

This week the City of Manteca sent four firefighters to the Los Angeles area as part of the California Fire Assistance Agreement. It is the same mechanism that sends firefighters to help battle the extensive wildland blazes that have pummeled the forests and foothills over the last several years.

The cost of their services as well as the cost of replacing them on standard shifts, according to Acting Manteca Fire Chief Dave Marquez, will be reimbursed by the State of California.

The administrative costs incurred while shuffling personnel will also be paid back by the state of California.

And three firefighters from the Lathrop Manteca Fire District – including Fire Chief Gene Neely – are also down in Southern California providing assistance.

According to Lathrop Manteca Division Chief Larry Madoski, the personnel that are currently deployed to the Southern California region will help augment staffing levels at hospitals and work closely with the doctors and nurses treating COVID-positive patients. Some of those tasks could include providing hospital intake and triage, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and anything else that is needed to respond to the surge.

They joined personnel from the South San Joaquin Fire  Authority that serves Tracy and the surrounding area that were dispatched last week.

As part of the agreement with the State of California the firefighters will work for 14 days before being quarantined in an off-site facility for 10 days before returning home for their families. The cost of their accommodations will be picked up by the State of California.

While San Joaquin County hospitals have been inundated with COVID-positive patients – St. Joseph’s Hospital in Stockton, the county’s largest, saw its ICU totals surge to 215 percent of licensed capacity last month – so far local first responders have not been tapped to help supplement existing staff levels.

At least one hospital in San Joaquin County – Adventist Health’s Lodi Memorial Hospital – has requested outside assistance during the pandemic, but that need was filled a military medical team provided by the federal government.

Madoski said that as the need arises the counties send out a request for assistance that is first filled with available resources at the regional level before advancing on to the state and ultimately the federal level.

Currently San Joaquin County is at 138 percent of licensed ICU capacity – down more than 30 percent from its peak less than a month ago. Over the last seven days the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has declined by 0.3 percent.

 To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.