Reserve firefighters are real firefighters.
They have the certification. They have the training. And they’re just as able to storm through your door and pull you out of a burning building as any of their full-time counterparts.
So, to that end, Manteca is getting a huge boost when it graduates 20 reserves from its academy on July 22. It will bolster a roster that will augment the reach of a department working to meet the needs of a growing community.
According to Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters, the program — revered in local public safety circles — helps provide flexibility when fixed budgets and little incidental spending is the norm.
And the way that it works is quite simple.
The program is anchored by the emergency callback program — where reserves are paged and respond to fires or other emergencies that engines and the city’s lone truck have already responded to. Since the dramatic aspects of the job (clearing the house, pulling people from the fire etc.) take only minutes, having additional hands on deck when the real work begins adds to the level of service that the department is able to deliver.
“For the most part the exciting stuff is over pretty fast, and then real work like salvage and overhaul come in,” Waters said. “That’s when we want to do a good customer service job. There are several hours of work to do afterwards, and people don’t think about that.
“It also helps put our units back into service and allows them to respond to the critical emergencies that might come up during that time.”
Mandatory ride time on engines is part of the gig. A combination of an hourly wage (Waters estimated between $8 and $10) and a monthly stipend of $100 helps compensate the reservists for their time.
But it also provides a deep pool of talent for the department to choose from when it comes time to hire new firefighters.
Waters said that more than 50 percent of the department’s full-time personnel were at one time reserve firefighters, including Battalion Chief Bob Davis.
Being able to see what kind of firefighters the reservists are up close and personal, Waters said, helps the department evaluate their strengths. They already know how well they work within the tight-knit team that protects the some 71,000 residents that call Manteca home.
“It’s a great program for us, and after the class graduates they’ll go to work for us right away,” Waters said. “It’s a chance for them to find out if being a career firefighter is really for them while providing a valuable asset to the community.
“It’s a win-win.”