The half cent public safety sales tax is enabling the Manteca Fire Department to add two firefighters in the fiscal year starting July 1.
That means the fourth fire station opened nearly two years ago on Lathrop Road west of Union Road will be fully staffed 24/7.
There are current 15 police positions and 13 firefighter positions funded from the half cent sales tax that generates nearly $4 million year. The public safety sales tax budget is expected to have a fund balance of $2.7 million as of June 30. The cushion allows for a fallback in the event retail sales drop off so none of the public safety positions being funded will be jeopardized.
The station was able to open early despite the city not having funding for 24/7 staffing due to a game plan by Fire Chief Kirk Waters that allowed a two-man rescue squad to operate out of the station when there wasn’t adequate staffing for three firefighters needed for an engine company.
It costs $1.4 million to hire the nine personnel needed to staff a fire engine company 24/7.
With the additional two firefighters the station will have the same coverage as Manteca’s other three fire stations.
The initial staffing was based on the fact the vast majority of calls handled by the fire department are medical emergency. Before the station opened nearly 3,000 homes in northwest Manteca including Del Webb were outside of the targeted optimum response time of five minutes for both medical emergencies and fires.
Last year, there were 5,993 emergency calls that Manteca firefighters handled. Of those, there were 3,562 medical emergencies, 1,629 service calls (non life-threatening) and 535 other emergencies while there were only 217 fires.
It is clear more lives are imperiled every day by medical emergencies than by fires.