A former meat processing plant used by the homeless as an encampment went up in flames early Friday morning.
The two-alarm, blaze reported at 3 a.m. destroyed the building in the 1100 block of West Yosemite Avenue. The loss was estimated at $750,000, according to Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters.
The former Sunny Valley Meats building is some 300 yards east of Union Road on the north side of the street. A used car lot next to the building was untouched but was covered with water from the fire hoses.
The first unit on the scene faced a flaming flashover shortly after they broke open a side door and entered the building. They were forced to retreat for their safety, the chief said. The city’s 100-foot aerial ladder truck was parked in the middle of Yosemite Avenue where crews shot high pressure water into the base of the fire. During the next three hours the aerial ladder was kept in place so firemen could watch for hotspots developing in the rubble.
Mutual aid was requested from Lathrop-Manteca and Ripon fire departments and a call out went out to reserves in all three cities to man the stations. There were 25 firefighters on the scene.
Power lines that traversed over the building snapped creating another hazard for the firefighters, he added, as members of SHARP volunteers cordoned off the main arterial.
Neighboring businesses told firemen that they had continually seen homeless people going into the building every day and feared there may have been someone in the building that had filled with heavy smoke by the time engines arrived on the scene.
The Manteca Police Department had evicted a homeless encampment in the building in late January. The homeless had taken mattresses into the structure. After the roof collapsed the area of the encampment was covered with rubble, however the investigation is continuing into next week.
Fire units were engaged in the fire fighting operation for some six hours, the chief said.