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Smoke greets homeowners
Celebration ends with 5 fire engines in yard
Manteca and Lathrop firefighters put on oxygen tanks and masks before going inside a bedroom on fire. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

A family celebration almost ended in tragedy Tuesday night in rural Manteca.

Phillip and Anna Elder had taken family to a Stockton restaurant to celebrate a granddaughter’s birthday. The granddaughter was visiting from the United Arab Emirates.

Thick smoke billowed out when they opened the front door after returning to their Peach Avenue home Tuesday at 9 p.m.

“We couldn’t see anything when we opened the door,” said Anna Elder. It was so thick their son-in-law Mahed Mahair had to crawl on the floor to open the windows.

Five fire engines responded including mutual aid from Manteca and Tracy – two from the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District, two from the Manteca City Fire Department, and one from Tracy. The Manteca District Ambulance also responded.

“We have a bedroom on fire. That’s all I can tell you at this point,” said Battalion Chief Don Jones of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.

One of the first things that the firefighters did was to set up a powerful fan directed at the open front door in an effort to clear the air inside the house. Several of the firefighters were seen going inside the house with oxygen tanks and gas masks on. At least one firefighter was observed going inside from the back of the house carrying an electric saw.

Anna Elder - standing in a slight drizzle with her family - was upbeat as firefighters went about their job.

“Everything’s already okay. Nobody’s hurt,” she said.

 The Elders were longtime owners of a combination car wash and gas station on West Yosemite Avenue near the Manteca Historical Museum. They sold the business 10 years ago.

The Elders’ son-in-law and his daughter are visiting from Dubai of the United Arab Emirates. They live with the Elders’ daughter Diana who is a banker there.

The Elders bought the gated Peach Avenue house 25 years ago. The sprawling ranch-style home sits on five acres and features a tree-lined long driveway that ends right at the front door.