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No layoffs but service levels will drop for fire
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A significant amount of smoke coming out of the air condition ducts brought fire engines - including the 100-foot aerial platform ladder truck - to the Manteca Auto Plaza car dealership mid-morning Wednesday at South Main Street and Highway 120 Bypass where employees had vacated the building. Firefighters used their 100-foot aerial ladder to reach the roof area where they reportedly found wires had burned in an air conditioning unit. The ladder truck is the engine company that will be browned out when staffing levels drop during the coming year. - photo by GLEN KAHLL

The deal avoiding the layoff of six Manteca firefighters doesn’t mean service levels won’t change.

That’s because the pact reached by the Manteca Firefighters Association and the City of Manteca includes an agreement to leave three firefighting positions vacant. The vacancies will come up during the next 12 months based on scheduled retirements.

It will mean the city’s fourth engine company - the 100-foot aerial platform ladder truck - will be “browned out” or taken out of front-line response service about 50 percent of the time. Fire Chief Kirk Waters said that will start happening after retirements take effect.

That will leave Manteca with three engine companies staffed 24/7 when a brown-out happens. Manteca added the fourth engine company in April of 2009. If it is taken out of front line response, the fourth engine company can still be deployed by firefighters in a callback situation as needed.

Manteca Firefighters Local 1874 and the City of Manteca reached an agreement on June 16. It eliminated the need for the six layoffs that were scheduled to take place today.

That agreement included:

• Firefighters will contribute an additional 14 percent to the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). The total contribution by each fireman to PERS is now equal to 23 percent of the cost.

• Three positions will remain vacant when the current firefighters filling them retire.

• Minimum staffing will be no less than 10 firefighters a day.

• The current policy of one firefighter being off from work will remain in effect to help keep a lid on overtime costs.

Waters praised the firefighters for stepping up to the challenge of keeping service levels as high as possible while working within the city’s financial constraints.

“This agreement was the result of a team effort with a focus on both a balanced budget and service to the community,” added City Manager Steve Pinkerton.

The fourth engine has helped the city improve the number of instances that firefighters are on scene within five minutes of an emergency service call. It has helped by having another engine available when other engine companies are involved with other calls.

It takes 12 firefighters to staff an engine company 24/7.