Bee Investigator: On firetrucks, downtown banners and recycling

05/18/2014 5:23 PM

05/19/2014 6:48 AM

Whew! It’s too hot for anything complex and deep. Let’s focus on some shorter, lighter questions this week.

First up, Nanci McCall of Modesto said she came to a red stoplight behind a firetruck (obviously, not one racing off to an emergency call).

“On the back of the truck it said something to the effect of ‘Stay back 323 feet.’ I got to thinking that 323 feet is longer than a football field,” Nanci said. “I wondered if I was supposed to stop that far back from the firetruck, and if I did, what other drivers would think and do. Would one going 45 mph not understand why I was stopped so far away and plow into the back of my car? If so, at least there would be someone there to administer first aid to me and direct traffic around the scene of the accident.”

She thought it was a Modesto firetruck, so I called Sean Slamon, interim chief of the Modesto Regional Fire Authority.

“Historically, the sign would say 300 feet,” he said. That’s the distance recommended, not so much on the West Coast, but “generally on the East Coast, because it’s so crowded and tight in the streets back there. They need that much distance to get out their hoses and other equipment.”

It’s the recommended distance for “when they’re parked at an incident, not if they’re driving down the road,” he added.

So Nanci and others aren’t breaking any laws pulling up behind a firetruck at a stoplight.

But what’s with the odd number?

“It actually says 343 feet,” Slamon said. “That number is a tribute for the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center.”

And it’s not a Modesto truck. It belongs to the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District and is housed in Empire. The sign was put there by the truck’s manufacturer, Pierce Manufacturing, out of Appleton, Wis.


Patty Guerra, The Modesto Bee’s breaking news editor, wanted to know why banners featuring the word “Winter” and snowflakes were still flying in downtown Modesto as temperatures are edging up toward 100 degrees.

Actually, the banners were up through the first week of May, but now have been replaced with the patriotic flag signs as we move toward July 4 and other summer activities.

The Downtown Improvement District is the group responsible for the banners.

Nancy Young, DID’s executive director, said putting up the banners dates back to about 1990.

“We used to do the seasons, plus holidays like Christmas and the Fourth of July,” she said.

But since the economy’s downturn in 2008, budget cutbacks have sliced that schedule down to about three changes a year – for winter/Christmas, for Graffiti/patriotic and a third one either in the spring or summer. But this year, she admitted, the winter ones were left up too long.

“We didn’t have much of a spring,” she said.

The banners cost about $125 to $150 each, and DID contracts with a private company to put them up on the downtown light poles, which costs about $30 each time, Young said.

They look nice and add a bit of flavor to the downtown area.


Finally, another reader wanted to know why there appeared to be two huge piles of trash at the American Recycling plant on Morgan Road. Ceres City Manager Toby Wells said he contacted the company for the answer.

“Brian Terrell confirmed the large pile is not garbage, but all metal,” Wells said. “In the commodity market with contracts with several customers, they basically got stuck in the middle of large deliveries of materials and a down market for the disposition of metal. They were forced to hold the material for a little longer than usual and are now in the process of shipping it out, but it will take a couple of weeks to reduce the overall pile. The city has not received any complaints.”

Well, until now.

As of Friday, more than two weeks after Wells checked this out, the two piles may have shrunk a bit but were still wide and high. If the recycling center is still stuck in the middle, it needs to find a way out. Quickly.

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