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Rural residents fear closure of 2 fire stations
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LATHROP - The family of Lathrop City Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal knows full well the role of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District is a matter of life and death to its citizens.

The quick and professional response by fire emergency crews is the reason his father is alive today after he suffered a severe heart attack about two years ago.

A Mossdale Landing resident who went into cardiac arrest early last week was not as fortunate. Since the fire station at River Islands Parkway west of Interstate 5 has been closed the last three months due to lack of funding, it was the emergency crew from the J Street station on the east side of the freeway that responded. Due to the added distance, it took the emergency responders eight minutes to get to the stricken resident instead of the ideal and critical five-minute response time that often makes the difference between life and death in medical and structure fire situations.

Former Lathrop mayor and incumbent Lathrop-Manteca Fire board of director Gloryanna Rhodes drove the significance of that message home when she declared at the board’s special meeting Tuesday last week that her son is alive today because of similar quick actions by trained professional fire emergency personnel. Today, her son is a firefighter himself.

Quick response is the buzz phrase that is coming from residents in the district’s 100-square-mile geographical jurisdiction that includes the incorporated City of Lathrop as the fire protection agency confronts a budget crisis that has not been seen in its 75-year history. The financial dilemma, brought on by the devastating effects of The Great Recession which significantly drained property taxes that are the main lifeblood of the district’s operations, is so dire that it could lead to the potential closure of the two outlying fire stations - the South Union Road station near the Nile Garden School on Nile Avenue, and the East Lathrop station near New Haven School on Austin Road.

The possibility of losing the vital services coming from these rural fire stations is terrifying to property owners who rely on the immediate fire and medical services provided by these first responders.

“They can’t close those stations. There’s too much risk. There’s got to be something like Measure M (such as the one passed by the City of Manteca)” to save Stations 32 and 33, said Kerry Harris, referring to the two outposts in rural outlying areas outside Manteca. She and husband Marty live south of the city of Manteca not far away from the South Union Road station.

If that station is shut down and a fire happens to erupt at their home, “we are goners,” she said.

She and her husband of three months were among a group of concerned district residents who were at the Lathrop Council meeting about two weeks ago when the Lathrop-Manteca firefighters union presented their case and their concerns to the council. They also learned from the presentation given by firefighters union president Josh Capper who spoke on behalf of the union members about the closure of the Mossdale Landing fire station No. 4 three months ago due to lack of funds, and the potential layoff of 10 firefighters “in two months, if not the end of the year” as the district faces a budget crisis due in large measure to The Great Recession. Station No. 4 at River Islands Parkway was closed because the one-time only $1.1 million sunset grant from the City of Lathrop has completely dried up.

Last year alone, the district lost about $1 million in property taxes which dealt a major blow to their operational budget.