MANTECA’s 5th FIRE STATION
Updated: Feb. 25, 2020, 1:27 a.m.
Manteca will do something in May that hasn’t been done for at least 65 years — open a new fire station with full staffing.
Thanks to a decision by a previous City Council to start adding nine additional firefighters years ahead of the ground breaking 18 months ago on the city’s fifth fire station being built at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue, the station will be fully staffed 24/7 when it goes online possibly as early as May.
That wasn’t the case when the fourth station opened on Lathrop Road in 2014 as inadequate staffing meant for at least 30 percent of the time before the city could afford the manpower to staff an engine company 24/7 the station was covered with a two-man rescue squad.
It was even worse when the third station on Louise Avenue was finished in 1985. The station sat empty for more than a year because the city couldn’t afford to staff it. The city at the time was struggling to keep up with growth and had depleted the general fund reserves to the point there was only a little over $1,000 left.
Today, the city’s general fund has various set aside reserves in excess of $20 million.
The Union Road station that opened in 2002 replaced a station that was on Center Street that is now being used by the city’s building maintenance division. The second station built in Manteca is the Powers Avenue station that opened 65 years ago.
Fire Chief Kyle Shipherd noted the next “station” that is needed can actually be created by adding another full staffed engine company at the Union Road station.
It’s location on top of the 120 Bypass as well as to a large swath of development southwest Manteca that is now easier to reach thanks to the Atherton Drive extension completed last year means it should be able to provide timely responses to serve growth in to the near future. Shipherd noted geography dictates station locations while service demands drive staffing needs.
Union Road call volume will increase with opening of Great Wolf Lodge resort
The fire chief indicated the department expects call volume to increase in a sizeable fashion once the 500-room Great Wolf indoor water park resort opens. The station is already the busiest in Manteca and is also either the busiest or second busiest in all of South San Joaquin County. “Because of its location it gets all the calls on the 120 Bypass,” the chief noted.
The Union Road station was built with long-range planning in mind as it has sleeping quarters and bays to support two engine companies.
The plan is to relocate the 100-foot aerial truck to the Union Road station as it is more centrally located to larger distribution centers and Great Wolf now that the Airport Way corridor is developing with large structures such as are in Spreckels Park next door to the Powers Avenue station where the aerial truck is now housed.
The city is targeted to take delivery of a $600,000 replacement fire engine for an existing station later this spring. Shipherd said plans are to ask council for approval in May for a new engine for the Atherton station that will cost $602,000 and take a year to deliver. Meanwhile, a backup engine will be shifted to the new station.
Shipherd noted there are already more than 4,000 housing units south of the 120 Bypass and east of Main Street that will fall in the service area of the new station.
When it opens, the station will become the primary responder to the segment of the 120 Bypass where the bulk of the accidents occur in the eastbound lanes between Main Street and the Highway 99 interchange.
Shipherd indicated the city has been in discussions with Caltrans about the possibility of not closing the southbound onramp to Highway 99 from Austin Road to allow a more robust response to traffic accidents. Ultimately a third phase of a 120 Bypass/99 interchange upgrade will replace the ramp. Caltrans needs to close the southbound off-ramp at Austin in order to make the improvements to make the first phase of the $156 million project work. Construction on the first phase is targeted to start in 2021. Both ramps, regardless, would be restored as part of the third phase.
New station could eventually house rescue squad or even an ambulance crew
The new station being built for $4.8 million will serve as a blueprint for future stations. It has state-of-the-art designs aimed at reducing firefighters’ continued exposure to carcinogenics from fires once they return to the station. It includes special flooring, a boot cleaning area and a pressured air system to make sure when turnout gear and boots are removed after a fire that carcinogenics aren’t brought into the living quarters.
The station is designed to house up to five firefighters.
That will give the city the flexibility down the road to add a rescue squad or even allow Manteca District ambiance to house an ambulance and crew if a need for such additions arises as the city grows. “Our stations are designed to accommodate the city’s needs for 100 years,” the fire chief said. And while the department hasn’t talked about housing Manteca District Ambulance units at the current time, but based on current call patterns they have been told the station’s location is not where the ambulance district would want to station an ambulance at this point in time.
Manteca has been staffing all fire engines with three firefighters since 2000. The last hire for the new engine company that will be housed at Atherton Drive was made just recently. Engines will respond to calls by accessing Woodward Avenue while they would return via a driveway off Atherton Drive. At night when traffic is not an issue, engines will respond to emergencies without the need to hit the siren as they do from other stations. The only time they use sirens leaving the station at night is when traffic is an issue.
That policy — along with station design that reflects adjoining architecture — is in place to the fire station and its operations blend as seamlessly as possible into the neighborhood.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email [email protected]