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Fire claims 2 cockatiels, 2 dogs in Lathrop
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Firefighters wet down the smoke-filled interior of a large converted mobilehome home in Lathrop after the flames were knocked down. They were unable to go onto the roof for fear of falling through the thin sheeting. - photo by GLENN KAHL
LATHROP — A noontime structure fire Friday in Lathrop, with black smoke visible from the east side of Manteca,  claimed the lives of two dogs and two cockatiels that had been left in the home while the owner was away.

Harold Edwards was driving home from the Jackson Rancheria recreational park in his motorhome when he first saw the smoke - not knowing it was his home that was on fire and that he would find it a total loss. A relative said he had not gone to the casino but had just been enjoying the park setting.

 Edwards and family members sat in the motorhome at the side of the road and watched solemnly as firefighters fought the fire for nearly an hour.

The Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department dispatcher received the call at 12:32 p.m. The first engine was on the scene four minutes later, according to Chief Fred Manding.  The DLA Fire Department from Sharpe Depot also responded as did one truck from Ripon.  The Manteca Ambulance also had one unit standing by at the scene for the security of the firemen fighting the stubborn blaze.

The Manteca Fire Department took over coverage for most of the Lathrop District.  Lathrop Engine Company 33 located at Austin and Lathrop roads headed half way into town and staged at the side of the road  so it could respond in either direction in case another fire call was received.  Tracy Fire Department also sent an engine to staff one of Lathrop’s stations.

Edwards said he had lived at the Vierra Road address for some 40 years and had just canceled his fire insurance two months ago, because of a question over the premiums.  He was heartbroken over the loss of his dogs.  Three dogs had been in the house but it was believed that one had somehow gotten out.

Chief Manding said late Friday night that the preliminary investigation indicated that the fire began in or near the kitchen area of the residence that had been a converted triple-wide mobile home.

Family members who were not living at the home said they had come by earlier in the morning to use the washer and dryer.  One noted he thought he smelled something when they walked out the door at about 10:30.  The chief said it didn’t appear that the fire had started in either the dryer or the washer.

The cause of the fire is subject to a continuing investigation, he said.