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Paramedics on all Lathrop Manteca FD engines step close for fire district
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The Lathrop Manteca Fire District may have just cleared a huge hurdle in its pursuit to place a paramedic on every fire engine.

While the agency had already identified the funding that it would use to send a number of its firefighters back to school to become paramedic certified, they learned recently that they were awarded a FEMA grant worth more than $410,000 that will allow for nine firefighters to get the certification they are seeking.

With three paramedic-certified firefighters already on staff, the agency will end up with a dozen once the training is complete – a feather in their cap as they begin to work with San Joaquin County on gaining approval to move forward with their plans.

“These grants have given us enormous opportunities to advance to where we are today,” Fire Chief Gene Neely said from a wildland fire outside of Quincy. “We’re looking to working locally to get that program off the ground.”

While Lathrop Manteca will have to contribute $37,000 to receive the full grant allotment, the influx of cash will help free up other money needed to move forward with the ambition plan – which will require purchasing all of the medicines that paramedics may use, installing lock boxes on every fire engine to protect those medicines, and paying for a medical consultant that can supervise the program.

And it’s not the first time that a federal grant has helped free up money that can then be used for other things.

Several times over the last decade the agency has been the recipient of the SAFER grant which pays the salaries and benefits of firefighters in an effort to help improve staffing ratios – something that became pivotal when the agency fell on hard financial times after the collapsing housing market drastically shrunk the revenue from property taxes that is critical to its operation.

The passing of Measure C in 2012, which helped the district weather the financial storm that the housing crash brought with it, also helped put the district in the position to be able to fund ventures like the pursuit of paramedics on every engine and the addition of a new rescue unit that will be staffed with Measure C funds moving into the future.

The grant was going to be formally announced last week at the meeting of the agency’s Board of Directors, but bad air quality from the numerous wildland fires raging across California – which, ironically, led to the majority of the district’s administrative team being deployed to help assist – forced the City of Lathrop to close City Hall until conditions improved.

While the specifics have yet to be worked out, Neely believes that the firefighters that will be sent for training will either be going to Las Positas Community College in Livermore or NCTI in Livermore – the closest location for such training. Efforts to secure a private instructor to do on-site classes, he said, hit a number of roadblocks, but those decisions will be made in the coming months.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.