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Loaned Life Jackets Fill Crucial Need
Life jackets are still available on loan from the local fire station. Fewer boaters and swimmers will need them as the summer advances into fall, but the life jacket loan program runs year-round and the life saving device is available at any time.

Life jackets may be borrowed from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District's Riverbank Station 36 located on Topeka Street just east of Santa Fe Street besides from Waterford and Empire fire stations. There is someone on duty at all times but it is best to call ahead, to 209-549-8406 for Riverbank, 549-8404 for Waterford and 549-8402 for Empire.

"On a busy weekend we loan out 20 to 30 jackets a day and on the average hand out 50 to 60 jackets a month," said Fire Capt. Zack Gardner, who runs the program at the Riverbank station and leads the water rescue team there.

"They come in about 8 a.m. on weekends and generally return them by 5:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. that day or on the Sunday."

Firefighters keep records of the borrower's driver's license or identification card plus addresses and telephone numbers so they can follow up to retrieve jackets that are long overdue for return. But they seldom have to do so.

"Ninety-five percent of the jackets are returned on time and in good condition," said Gardner.

Now in its sixth year, the local program is funded by the California Department of Boating and Waterways and Modesto, Turlock and Oakdale irrigation districts, which provide the equipment. All sizes of jackets are available from infant to adult.

The program has definitely saved lives although it's difficult to produce specifics, said Gardner, commenting, "we've had a couple of rescues of guys who were wearing our loaned jackets and where there could have been a different outcome without them."

For more information on water safety and the life jacket loan program, visit the Department of Boating and Waterways at or Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District at