A Bay Area couple’s home ownership dream went up in smoke early Sunday morning.
And a number of neighbors are convinced the blame can be traced to the homeless that have been repeatedly kicked out of the home located in South Central Manteca behind the Burlington Coat Factory.
The fire broke out shortly after midnight Sunday gutting a back bedroom and living areas and sent smoke throughout the structure. Battalion Fire Chief David Marques estimated the loss in excess of $100,000.
Marques said the crew of the first engine found a large amount of flames coming out of a bedroom window in the right rear corner of the home.
It was quickly realized it was an empty home with the front door unlocked and ajar. Heavy black smoke was coming from the attic on all sides with light to moderate smoke found throughout the interior. He added the fire that he called “suspicious in nature” appeared to have started in the main living area and extended into the main hallway and the attic.
Numerous homeless individuals had been making the empty three-bedroom, two bath home in the 1000 block of Champagne Lane, south of Wawona Avenue and west of South Main Street their personal hideaway. The home had been on the market for several months.
Four neighbors living confirmed the presence of the homeless individuals for the past several weeks that occupied the house and appeared to be moving their possessions into the residence including what they described as three new bicycles. They all complained about delayed police response time when they called 911 to report homeless entering the home during the past month.
Police rousted two a couple weeks ago and gave them citations for being inside the home. The couple, however, came back into the neighborhood the next morning and entered the home according to a neighbor.
Neighbors said they had witnessed a man and a woman being ejected more recently by the owner of the house with the woman coming back the next day demanding to pick up her personal property. She was told to get off the property because she was trespassing, they said. Last Sunday the owners took out 10 large bags of trash and the bicycles, neighbors said.
Neighbors reported homeless individuals repeatedly coming into their yards over a rear retaining wall at the back of the Burlington Coat Factory. A make-shift ladder was found broken by the wall at the rear of the burned-out house. Sunday afternoon two carpenters from Garcia & Sons Construction Company were boarding up the windows and doors of the home.
The new owners of the home are from Alameda.
The homeless in recent years have been suspected of starting a number of structure fires in Manteca.
Included in the long list was the old Gordon home on Union Road that has multiple fires being demolished, a used car lot office that burned three times before being torn down, vacant homes in the 600 block of North Lincoln that have since been leveled, the two-story Sycamore Arms apartments and stores downtown, an empty home on Garfield Avenue across from Manteca High, the old Sunnyvalley Meats plant next door to Cabral Motors, and four structures on Moffat Boulevard among others.
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