Billowing clouds of black smoke could be seen for miles late Wednesday afternoon when a doublewide mobile home caught fire in the El Rancho Mobile Home Park on East Yosemite Avenue just east of Highway 99.
Manteca Fire Battalion Chief Bob Davis was one of the first to arrive on the scene and found the mobile home just around the corner from the front gate off of Yosemite Avenue fully involved.
Three fire engines filled the access road to the burning home as firefighters pulled fire lines off of their trucks and down the street to attack the flames that were bursting out the windows of the home and leaping into the air.
Residents Kathryn Swain and Bob St. John had left for a doctor’s appointment shortly before the fire was noticed by other residents in the tight knit community. A Manteca-Lathrop engine was first on the scene followed by Manteca City Fire and the Ripon Fire Department’s 100-foot aerial ladder along with Manteca Ambulance on standby.
Two Manteca police officers also responded after seeing the billowing black and white smoke not knowing if anyone were trapped in the mobile home.
Firefighters were told by neighbors that they believed Swain had gone to see her doctor but they feared St. John might still be inside in his wheelchair. After firefighters beat down the flames in about 20 minutes what they had feared did not materialize – Swain and St. John had actually left together.
The firefighters from the joint departments also defended the adjacent mobile homes as well to keep the fire from jumping over to them. Residents showed their appreciation to the fire fighting teams – one that entered the smoke-filled living room and bedrooms to search for possible victims.
Handyman Phillip Aguilar was in the area and rushed to the burning trailer shutting off the gas line and the electricity to the residence – making it safer for advancing firefighters. Coincidentally St. John’s next door neighbor had his mobile home burn two years ago on a park street backing up to Highway 99.
As the first engines were leaving the park, Swain and St. John were driving in the front gate having to face the charred ruins of their home. In cases like this the Red Cross is usually called and attempts to find a place for victims to stay and provide them with vouchers for food. The Manteca Fire Chief’s Fund also tries to meet the needs of the burned out families.