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Fireworks destroy back yard
Illegal bottle rockets wipe out 41 years of TLC
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Dave Crocket stands in his back yard blackened reportedly by bottle rockets that had been shot off in his neighborhood Sunday night. - photo by GLENN KAHL
The lush, green landscaping of a family’s 41-year-old back yard in Raymus Village was torched by fireworks Sunday night with flames leaping more than 100 feet into the air.

Long-time Manteca residents Dave and Ann Crocket were at a son’s home in the southwestern part of the city celebrating the Independence Day holiday when the fire erupted. They were called by an adult grandson to come back to their Navajo Way home saying their back yard was ablaze and was threatening the house.  

The grandson was made aware of the fire by alert residents banging on the front door of the family home.  A Basset Hound Spaniel pet was locked in a dog run near the fire in the back yard. The dog was immediately rescued by the grandson with his wife caring for their two-year-old son.

Neighbors could see the 15 flaming 25-foot-tall junipers from as far away as Northland Road with one resident attempting to defend the Crocket home with a water hose while the fire department was enroute.

Some feared the house was a total loss because they could see the rear yard flames through front windows with the entire house silhouetted by the fire. They thought the fire was actually inside the home. A power line at the edge of the property was downed by the flames as was a telephone line.

Crocket said it was a miracle that their home and its memories hadn’t been lost to the fire.  He admitted to being in awe as he and his wife later stood in front of their home as the firemen were mopping up the damage - all the while hearing continuous bottle rockets being shot into the air all over the Raymus Village neighborhood.

The heat melted the liner of the in-ground swimming pool and destroyed the lush landscaping that had served as a play haven for the couple’s kids. Much of their vegetable garden was destroyed by the fire and the heat.

Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene by firefighters to control the traffic and crowds that had been drawn to the Highway 99 Frontage Road just to the west of the fire.  A friend of the family, unaware it was the Crocket home, took video footage from her freeway vantage point.  

Deputies interviewed neighbors who reportedly had witnessed those in the neighborhood who had been shooting off bottle rockets directly to the south and to the west of the Crocket home.

The Crockets said people came to them offering to share their homes with them if they needed a place to stay – offering more to replace any losses – many people they didn’t even know.  A young granddaughter – seeing the back yard after the fire – said she didn’t know there was a fence or a house behind the juniper stand because the growth had been so thick.