Vacant home destroyed

An empty house off Valpico Road was destroyed in a fire early Monday morning.

An abandoned house was destroyed in an early morning fire off Valpico Road and South MacArthur Drive on Monday.

Battalion Chief Chris Martin said the South San Joaquin County Fire Authority received a call at 2:55 a.m. about a grass fire starting off Valpico Road. While fire engines were on the way, the call was upgraded to a burning structure.

Martin said that when firefighters arrived, flames had fully engulfed the one-story, 2,500-square-foot house in a small gully west of the Rite Aid store off Valpico Road. They could only wait for the unoccupied building to collapse and then put out the flames.

“It was safer that as opposed to us getting close and a wall could fall us,” Martin said. “Everything else was protected. It was pretty remote and there were no other houses threatened.”

Three engine crews watched it burn for an hour, lighting the sky with a red glow, until the roof fell in and they could begin to work. A column of smoke and ash rose over a nearby neighborhood for about two hours.

The fire is under investigation, but it is likely that someone started it somehow. No utilities were connected to the property, and it appeared that someone had gone inside through a door that had been broken open.

“The concern was there was an open door and someone could have been living in there and started a warming fire or to cook something,” Martin said.

The structure of the house had been weakened by the fire and it was too dangerous for firefighters to go inside, but they searched the surrounding area and couldn’t find anyone.

Martin said firefighters had responded to fires in nearby homeless encampments before, but he couldn’t say whether anyone from those camps had been involved in the house fire.

Firefighters stayed until about 5:30 a.m., when the fire was completely extinguished. Only the abandoned house and nearby grass burned, and no one was hurt.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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