A $1.27 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant that allowed Manteca to hire six additional firefighters has made the city safer based on national standards for the most optimum way to tackle stricture fires.
Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd told the City Council Tuesday that Manteca is now able to have 15 firefighters — including a battalion chief — on scene of a first alarm for a single family home structure fire within 8 minutes 77 percent of the time. Manteca has never been able to do that prior to the six firefighters being hired.
Meeting the eight minute manpower benchmark most of the time typically results in smaller fires, reduced property damage and improve safety for both citizens and firefighters.
Federal funding for the six firefighters expires at the end of this year.
Unless the City Council is able to fund those positions through the general fund or Measure M public safety sales tax receipts it means Manteca won’t be able to obtain the most effective manpower needed at a structure fire within eight minutes nor will the city’s rescue squad unit will no longer be staffed 24/7.
The SAFER grant was looked upon as a way to ramp up staffing for the fifth fire station so the city could staff it when it was built.
Six firefighters would allow the city to open the proposed Atherton/Woodward station with a rescue squad just as they did with the Lathrop Road fire station. It takes nine firefighters to staff a fire engine 24/7.
Such an approach not only allows the city to ease into full staffing but it also allows the city to cover 90 percent of all calls that are not fire related.
The council is scheduled to discuss budget priorities with staff later this month for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Among cities in the region of roughly the same population Manteca has the lowest firefighters per capita. Manteca’s population in 2014 was 71,948. Manteca was served by 41 firefighters. Turlock with 70,364 residents had 45 firefighters, Lodi with 63,338 residents had 54 firefighters, Folsom with 73,096 residents had 55 firefighters, and West Sacramento with 49,891 residents had 62 firefighters. Since then the SAFER grant brought Manteca’s firefighter personnel up to 47.