A fast moving grass fire destroyed two homes around noon Thursday in a semi-rural neighborhood in southwest Manteca near Wetherbee Lake.
Dry weeds fueled the blaze that engulfed three structures just south of the 1800 block of Williamson Road. The fire completely destroyed one small residence along with an outbuilding, and badly damaged an occupied home, according to Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neeley.
Plumes of dark smoke could be seen from as far away as Stockton and Modesto from the fire that spread over 12 acres. It also left in its wake the charred ruins of a Ford flatbed truck and a small recreational trailer that was completely destroyed. The chief estimated structures suffered $125,000 in damages.
Two Lathrop firefighters suffered heat exhaustion. They were treated at the scene. Nine engine companies and 28 firefighters from Lathrop-Manteca, French Camp, Manteca, the Defense Depot and Ripon battled the blaze. Three water tankers also responded.
Neeley said the cause had yet to be determined. He said it took firefighters some three and a half hours to knock down the blaze. Another four to five hours were required for cleanup.
The home that was partially lost to the fire when flames damaged the roof, the kitchen and living quarters was owned by Jenny Liant and her brother. Neighbors said they purchased the property last year.
Liant was consoled by a neighbor, retired RN Karen Maness, who also poured bottles of water over her to cool her body down.
Just two weeks ago Maness went to the aid of a man suffering a heart attack at the nearby Marina bar where she and another woman shared CPR duties to revive the victim. An emergency medical team arrived within five minutes and took over the CPR and shocked the man, Maness said. He has recovered without having any side effects, she said.
Liant was concerned about a year-old pet thought to have been trapped in the home. After resting for 30 minutes on the back of the fire chief’s vehicle, Liant began to scream while running toward the fence when she noticed her dog was in the back of her white minivan parked near the roadway.
Maness ran around the fence and opened the rear hatch of the vehicle running with the big dog in her arms toward the street and its owner. Linant used a water bottle to force liquid into the shepherd’s mouth. Neeley also helped with hydrating the shaken but otherwise unharmed animal.
One of the firefighters who had suffered heat exhaustion later said when he opened the front door of the burning house the shepherd bolted for the outside and kept running. She made it nearly all the way to the street where the family van was parked, jumped through the window and hid in the rear of the vehicle.
A second pet, a yellow lab, was still missing at press time. Firefighters said they did not find the dog in the house or in the charred acreage.