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Blaze starts on roof of Old City Hall built in 1923
old city hall fire
Photo courtesy Manteca Fire Department Manteca firefighters battle a roof fire Tuesday on the Old City Hall building in the 100 block of Sycamore Avenue in downtown Manteca.

The fifth significant blaze in a decade has damaged a building within a two-block area of downtown Manteca.

The latest was the Old City Hall building in the 100 block of Sycamore Avenue.

Manteca Fire received an alarm concerning a roof fire around 4 p.m. Tuesday at the 98-year-old, two-story brick building. A second alarm was issued for assistance from the Lathrop Manteca Fire District and the Tracy-based South San Joaquin County Fire Authority.

The fire quickly escalated and burned through the roof.

Acting Fire Chief Dave Marques indicated a quarter to two thirds of the roof was destroyed with fire and water damages on the second floor as well as smoke and water damage on the ground floor.

There was one occupant that suffered moderate burns and was treated at a local hospital. A firefighter suffered an ankle injury while combatting the fire. He was transported to a hospital for treatment.
Marques noted the cause of the fire was not suspicious.

Due to the age of buildings constructed in a different era when fire and construction codes were less stringent and the fact there are no modern-day muscular fire walls between structures that abut each other, the fire department is hyper vigilant when it comes to downtown fire concerns.

The last fire was in May of 2018 across the street at the former San Joaquin County Health Department. The city is buying the remodeled building from the county to use that structure as a city hall downtown annex. That fire was believed to have been started by a homeless individual starting either a cooking or warming fire on the building’s front porch.

Before that – just across the alley from the building that will become the new city hall annex — there were two fires at the two-story Sycamore Arms apartment complex. Both were suspected of being caused by trespassers who were likely homeless.

Several years prior to those fires on the south side of the 100 block of East Yosemite was where a fire broke out in a storefront before the start of the annual downtown twilight Christmas parade to gut the structure.

The 100 block of Sycamore Avenue might be the most fire problematic area in Manteca. Besides the four most recent fires, it is where the last fatal downtown fire occurred in the early 1980s.

Two tenants died in the fire at the two-story Waukeen Hotel on the northeast corner of Yosemite and Sycamore avenues where a parking lot is now located.

Charlie Halford, who is now a city council member and is a retired Manteca police chief, was a fairly freshly minted police officer when that fire occurred. Before the fire department arrived, he was credited with retrieving a ladder and saving several people from the second floor via a window — including a child — as fire and smoke swept through the second floor.

Halford prior to be hired by the Manteca Police Department was a firefighter with the then Manteca Lathrop Rural Fire Department.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email