MANTECA — Sunday morning’s destructive fire that wiped out almost a quarter of the luxury apartments under construction in southeast Manteca has not dissuaded the developers from completing the project, but it will delay the planned July opening.
The first of 154 units at the Tesoro Apartments at Van Ryn Avenue and East Atherton Drive were expected to be occupied in three months, but now that date has been pushed back indefinitely until rebuilding can begin, according to the site’s construction superintendent for builder Atherton Homes.
Paul Gum, sitting in his dark on-site office trailer Monday morning as a rainstorm turned much of the 7.5-acre ash-covered site into a muddy swamp, still was coming to terms with what had occurred a day earlier:
• 36 apartment units lost.
• Two three-story framed buildings burned to their foundations.
• The pool house gone.
• Newly installed windows on facing buildings melted and roofs in need of inspection.
• An inferno so hot that firefighters had to direct their hoses toward their engines to keep the paint from peeling.
There is good news. None of the apartments were occupied and there were no injuries reported, according to the Manteca Fire Department.
And work can continue on nine of the buildings under construction that survived. That should keep the crew of approximately 75 busy until they get the green light from the Fire Department and city building officials to return to the burned structures.
While the dollar value of the loss remains to be determined — sure to be in the millions — the bigger mystery is what started the fire.
According to Gum and fire officials, no one was working in the buildings when the first calls came in about 8:48 a.m. Sunday
“We know it started in Building E. That’s the conclusion of everybody,” Gum said.
He was told the first people to report the fire were motorists traveling on elevated Highway 120 just to the north. A subcontractor who was on a different part of the site attempted to call 911 but told Gum he couldn’t get through, presumably because of the volume of callers.
The buildings that burned down were in the framing stage, at their most vulnerable because of all the exposed wood.
“We were just turning the corner, preparing for framing inspection and installation of sheetrock,” Gum said. After a career building 5,000 apartments and countless other structures, Gum said, “This is the first time I’ve ever experienced a fire. I’ve never experienced a fire like this.”
Manteca fire Battalion Chief Bill Canfield described Sunday’s incident as “definitely a very significant fire for us.” It went to three alarms, utilizing all on-duty and reserve personnel, and even off-duty firefighters were called in to staff fire stations.
Mutual aid was provided by crews from Ripon, Tracy, Lathrop-Manteca and Stockton, with a total of 68 firefighters involved, according to Fire Marshal Lantz Rey.
Gum, for one, appreciated the effort, especially the focus firefighters put into protecting the other structures.
“Everybody,” he said, “did their job.”
Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at recordnet.com/goldeenblog and on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.