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Car crash triggers Bypass weed fire
freeway fire
Two cars believed to have been traveling at a high rate of speed crashed on Monday eastbound on the Highway 120 Bypass and ignited a fire that burned for more than 200 feet and destroyed several homeless encampments

Two cars believed to have been traveling at high rates of speed crashed on the eastbound Highway 120 Bypass Monday afternoon, sending both careening off of the roadway and igniting a fire that burned for more than 200 feet.

According to the Manteca Fire Department, the subsequent fire also destroyed a number of homeless encampments along the side of the elevated highway.

While both of the drivers were able to get out of their vehicle before the fire spread – engulfing one of the cars fully – they both sustained moderate injuries and were transported to area hospitals. The cause of the accident is currently being invested by the California Highway Patrol.

As a result of the crash and subsequent fire, traffic along the Highway 120 Bypass was backed up headed eastbound from just past the Main Street onramp all the way back to I-5 while crews worked to extinguish the blaze and treat the injuries of those in the vehicles involved.

Monday’s accident marked the second time in less than a week that a fire threatened homeless encampments along the city’s highways. Last week a wind-blown grassfire on eastbound 120 near the Highway 99 interchange burned more than 1,500 feet and actually pinned a number of homeless people in monetarily as the flames encroached on the encampments that are located along both sides of the Bypass. Nobody was injured in the fire as crews from the Manteca Fire Department and the Lathrop Manteca Fire District were able to extinguish the blaze in time.

As part of his sweeping mandates to help California weather the COVID-19 pandemic Governor Gavin Newsom has barred Caltrans from being able to remove encampments along highways even when they encroach on the state’s right-of-way. According to first responders, the encampments become safety hazards because of the potential for a fire and the possibility that a vehicle traveling at highway speeds could crash into the encampments and kill somebody who never time to react.

The grassy expanses near the intersection between the Highway 120 Bypass and Highway 99 presents its own safety hazard for motorists, especially when changing lanes between the two highways. Years ago, a fire along the loop that moved eastbound traffic onto northbound Highway 99 killed an elderly lady after smoke became so thick that her husband became disorientated and drove off the road and into the flames.

Newsom’s orders also prevent cities and counties from dismantling illegal homeless encampments on the assumption by allowing the homeless to stay put it will reduce the spread of COVID-19. Newsom’s prohibition stays in place as long as his office determines there is a health emergency in California.

It was actually the third encampment in Manteca threatened or destroyed by fire in the past week. An encampment in the driveway of the former Qualex building the City Council wants to secure for a homeless navigation center burned on Friday.


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.