There’s a SAFE place in Manteca for anyone who wants to learn something new, have fun, and most of all, be a useful member of the community.
At least, those were the three reasons Richard Silverman was drawn to the Family City’s Seniors Assisting Fire Effort (SAFE) when he and his wife, Linda, moved to Manteca from Concord and were looking for ways to get actively involved in their new home town.
But since he joined the volunteer group in 2007, the councilman has discovered that while there’s plenty of fun in SAFE involvement, it also opens up some serious service opportunities when fire emergencies arise. One perfect example happened on Sunday when one of Manteca’s historic properties, the old Crom family home, went up in flames and literally bit the dust.
As some two-dozen firefighters from the City of Manteca and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District battled the burning building in the punishing near-century mark heat, a SAFE haven in the form of three ice chests full of cold bottled water became the go-to cooling off place for the tired and overheated fire personnel. Volunteers Silverman and Bob Pfirman were on hand to help dispense cold water bottles to the exhausted men while making sure they did not run out of the precious cold liquid. They had towels handy as well to dry themselves from all the sweat due to the heat from the fire and from the sun.
“They go through a lot of water. The danger is getting dehydrated. Keeping them hydrated is a big deal,” explained Silverman as he kept a close eye on the ice chests being full.
“They’re a big blessing for us,” Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters said of the significant service being provided by the SAFE volunteers at the fire site.
When they’re out on an emergency run to put out a fire and do rescue work, bottled water and towels are not the priority, he added. They usually have some of it stashed in the fire trucks, but not the towels.
Silverman said they are ready to provide the fire personnel with this assistance at a moment’s notice in any given emergency. There’s a freezer in the building behind the main fire station on Powers Avenue which is always full of ice and the necessary cooling liquid. The building is the former training office. It’s also the place where SAFE currently use for their meetings.
Officially launched on March 20, 2006 with the blessing of the Manteca City Council, Seniors Assisting Fire Effort is classified as “a fire department auxiliary group.”
New volunteers are always welcome. Requirements are not that stringent. A prospective member has to be at least 50 years old. Husband-and-wife teams are accepted even if one of them has not yet reached the age of 50. And there are no formal training or classes required. However, Silverman said members are encouraged to obtain a CPR and First Aid training plus a ham radio license although they don’t have to.
The uniforms that volunteers wear are provided by the city. Two vehicles, donated by a trucking company, are also at the volunteers’ disposal courtesy of the city.
One thing that is emphasized is that SAFE volunteers are not firefighters.
“We don’t do anything hazardous. We stay out of the way. We help (firefighters) out strictly with non-hazardous tasks. That’s our joke: if they ever need us to pull hoses, the city is in trouble,” Silverman explained in an earlier interview with the Bulletin.
Manteca’s web site states that “Manteca’s SAFE program is affiliated with Fire Corps which is a nationwide partner program of the federal program known as Citizen Corps. These programs are designed to provide citizen advocates with a mechanism to support their local governments through a donation of time and talent.”
Activities in which SAFE volunteers can also get involved include “accounting, clerical support, construction, engineering, fundraising, mechanical repairs, public affairs, grant writing, dispatch duties, computer support, building maintenance and public safety education,” according to the website.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of SAFE can pick up an application at any Manteca Fire Station. You can also download an application on the city web site at www.ci.manteca.ca.us/fire/Community/safe.html.