Debby Moorhead’s neighbors are on edge.
In less than two weeks, six homes under construction a short distance from where they live have been torched by arsonists while their families slept. Two homes went up in flames on June 24 then on the Fourth of July four more homes burned. That was followed the next night by a dumpster fire at a nearby home that was also under construction at new neighborhoods being built in southeast Manteca generally east of Pillsbury Road and south of Woodward Avenue,
“They are afraid,” the councilwoman said of her neighbors.
Moorhead is now leading a charge to seek the public’s help to find the responsible parties before more homes — including possibly those that are occupied — burn.
Today at 2 p.m. at the Union Road fire station Moorhead has helped bring together various fire and law enforcement officials as well as representatives of the building industry to put together a video that will be posted on social media and distributed to news outlets in a bid to seek information needed to find the culprits.
The video will include a “carrot”. Moorhead has started contacting various builders to commit money to a reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of responsible parties.
“We want it to be large enough that it will encourage people to come forward,” Moorhead said.
To date several builders have committed including Mike Atherton who is a partner in the 154-unit Tesoro apartment complex at Atherton Drive and Van Ryn Avenue that partially burned in an arson fire while it was under construction 14 months ago.
The losses in the arson fires to date easily exceed $6 million
Also on hand today will be Jon Beckman, executive director of the Building Industry of the Delta, who has agreed to work with his member builders to try and strengthen the reward.
Morehead noted the federal Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agency is a part of the investigation along with the Manteca Police and Manteca Fire departments.
Moorhead said the arson fires need to be kept front and center to encourage people to keep their eyes open as well as to help find someone that could have information that could lead to an arrest.
The six homes destroyed were part of two different neighborhoods being built by national home builders.
They are in addition to attempted arson and vandalism in February 2018 at two other homes under construction. The homes that were nearly completed sustained $180,000 worth of vandalism including carpet that the culprits tried to set on fire. Manteca Police arrested two 15-year-olds in connection with that incident.
All of the abovementioned occurred within a half mile radius of the two homes that burned June 24.
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.
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