Thirty-two firefighters from eight engines and a ladder truck, including crews from the Tracy Defense Depot and Lathrop-Manteca Fire District, battled the blaze for almost an hour.
Fire officials feared the blaze could spread north, south or east from the houses, which were side-by-side down a long driveway off the 100 block of East Kavanagh Avenue in the back of a multi-house complex.
Crew members on the first engines to arrive called for more backup when they saw the two houses fully ablaze, said Tracy Fire Department Division Chief Dave Bramell.
“There was a lot of smoke and flames, and the (housing) units were well involved,” Bramell said.
Officials believe the fire originated in the house on the east side of the complex. Bramell said it’s likely the second house caught fire after the flames made their way through a fence.
Bramell said windy conditions contributed to the fire’s spread.
He added that the radiant heat was so intense that a shed behind a nearby house also started to burn.
Residents in the area described seeing an orange glow and flames whipping into the air.
“I looked out my window, and the flames were as high as the tree,” Laura Esquiel said.
Her sister, Vanessa, said she was sleeping when she heard people in the house to the rear screaming. She said her dog started to bark before she saw the fire.
Among the crowd gathered across the street from the fire scene were Maria Valdez and her husband, Julio, who recalled hearing people screaming.
“It was scary,” Maria Valdez said, watching the firefighters battle the blaze. “I was inside my house and I heard a lady screaming, ‘Maybe he fell asleep with a cigarette.’ I saw the flames.”
Bramell, however, didn’t speculate about the fire’s cause, stating it is still under investigation.
Julio Valdez said he was happy to see the firefighters arrive quickly. He said all he could see across the street was a large orange glow
No firefighters were injured, but two local residents were reportedly injured, including a man with burns to his feet. Both men were treated at a local hospital.
The San Joaquin Chapter of the American Red Cross was contacted by Tracy fire to assist the displaced families, which included eight adults and five children, all of whom are younger than 10.
The Tracy office of the Red Cross can be reached at 833-0255.
Fire damaged the garage and attic of one house, as well as the attic and a section of the living space in the other house. Bramell estimated the damage to both houses is about $250,000.