A wind-fueled grass fire destroyed nearly a dozen cars and scorched a building as it crossed into a commercial business complex off Chrisman Road on Tuesday afternoon.

A statement from the local fire department says that South San Joaquin County Fire Authority crews were called out to a large grass fire in the area of Chrisman Road and Carmelo Court at 5:15 p.m.

Firefighters found a fire that had started in the grass and brush west of 7567 Carmelo Court and was being pushed by the wind east into a commercial complex with several auto and boat repair businesses.

It ignited several cars parked outside the complex, creating a large plume of black smoke above Chrisman Road visible from the intersection of 11th Street and MacArthur Drive and other parts of town.

Meanwhile, the grass in a retention pond and near the fence line bordering Union Pacific Railroad tracks continued to burn. Pallets and other railroad equipment burned as crews fought the fire on the other side of the chain-link fence.

The fire department ordered businesses to evacuate everyone as the fire crept through the cars. Workers could be seen pushing cars out of the way of the approaching flames and grabbing garden hoses and buckets of water to help fight the fire.

The fire reached Nava’s Auto Repair, 7567 Carmelo Ave., and caused minor damage to the building. It also destroyed several cars there.  

Propane tanks could be heard venting with loud pops as the flames surrounded them.

California Highway Patrol cruisers blocked Chrisman Road at 11th Street and at Brichetto Road as crews fought the fire.

As the flames spread, dispatchers called for more backup and the fire went to three alarms. Firefighters from Lathrop-Manteca Fire District, Manteca Fire Department and the Defense Logistics Agency depot fire department responded to the call for help. In all, 35 people fought the fire with eight fire engines, a ladder truck and four command vehicles.

Two water trucks were dispatched to shuttle water to the fire engines from a nearby water tank. Fire hydrants in the area were tied to a local system of water tanks, which were drained dry early in the fire fight.

Crews got the fire under control in about 45 minutes and spent about three more hours extinguishing hot spots and ensuring the fire was out, called “mopping up.”

The fire destroyed 11 cars and damaged eight others. That, along with the damage to one building, amounted to an estimated $275,000 in damage. No one was injured.

The cause of the initial grass fire is under investigation.

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

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