By DENNIS WYATT
An arsonist is apparently on the loose in Manteca.
Four more homes under construction in The Vintage neighborhood in southeast Manteca were destroyed in a predawn fire on the Fourth of July. The homes that burned Thursday near Memorial Lane and Heartland Drive did so just 10 days after another suspicious fire destroyed two other nearby homes being built on Veterans Street east of the Windward Pacific Builders Homes models.
Manteca Fire has not determined a loss from the latest blaze. Given that at least one home was farther along than either of the two destroyed on June 24 that resulted in a loss of $450,000, the builder so far may easily have sustained a loss in excess of $1.3 million. The base price for new homes that are being built in the neighborhood is from $449,900 and $509,900.
It is the latest of four major acts of vandalism and arson within a three-quarter mile radius of where crews this week started preliminary site work for the city’s fifth fire station being built at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.
Thursday’s fire came just 14 months after the most destructive fire in nearly 20 years in Manteca in terms of dollar loss occurred to the 154-unit Tesoro Apartments when they were under construction at Van Ryn Avenue and Woodward Avenue. The loss in that fire was in excess of $4 million. That fire was considered to be arson.
Two months prior to the apartment complex fire in April of 2018 two teens trashed a pair of homes being readied for buyers in the Atherton Homes development east of Pillsbury Road and south of Woodward Avenue. The Atherton neighborhood is immediately west of The Vintage neighborhood were the fire Monday destroyed the two homes under construction.
Manteca Police arrested two 15-year-old teens for the February 2018 vandalism that caused over $180,000 worth of damage to the two homes that each sold for more than $400,000. The homes were in the 2500 block of Juliana Way and 1300 block of Mirassou Drive.
This is the most serious string of arsons ever in the city’s history.
Previous arsons over the years have involved deliberately setting grass fires along the 120 Bypass, dumpster fires, and instances where a series of older buildings burned along Moffat Boulevard as well as four buildings and empty homes in and around downtown. The downtown area fires were believed to have been warming of cooking fires started by homeless squatters that got out of control.
The current rash of apparent arson fires as well as vandalism is pushing close to $6 million in losses.