A group of students walking home from school helped alert residents of a brush fire burning near homes in Spring Valley Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The blaze began just after 3 p.m. in a grassy drainage area at Jamacha Road and the State Route 125 off-ramp, near Elkelton Boulevard.
According to a deputy from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, high school students were walking home when they saw smoke. They ran door-to-door and warned homeowners of the fire.
Richard Jas, a homeowner who is legally blind, said the blaze sparked two houses away and came dangerously close to his home.
“I looked behind me and it moved down here and flames were above the tree tops easily,” he explained. “The pine trees went up; the fire just moved from one to the other. These pine trees are dangerous. They just explode.”
Jas was grateful for the warning from the teenagers in the neighborhood.
“It moved so fast – I’m glad [the kids] did that,” he added.
Jas’ neighbor, Jackie Brick, suffered a big loss in the fire: five of her eight pot belly pigs were killed in the blaze, which ripped through part of her backyard.
“It was like a shock out of nowhere, to come home and see your house busted out. You look in your backyard and it's to nothing left of it,” she said.
Still, Brick is thankful that firefighters were able to prevent the brush fire from spreading to her home.
“I'm grateful, very grateful they saved my house, that's the most important thing to me,” said Brick.
At around 4:10 p.m., Cal Fire San Miguel officials said the fire had scorched approximately two to three acres and was burning near the backyards of ten homes in the area. Firefighters were put in place to protect those threatened homes.
Kendal Bortisser of Cal Fire said 10 engines and one helicopter assisted in battling the blaze. About an hour after it began, the forward rate of spread stopped.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the emergency response. Deputies patrolled the impacted area and blocked off streets, and a sheriff’s helicopter was sent to help with water drops.
Deputies also assisted with evacuating 12 homes to the west of the fire along Elkenton Boulevard. A command post was established in the 1000-block of the street, and Elkelton Boulvard between Jamacha Road and Stansbury Street were closed off to traffic as Cal Fire crews worked the scene.
Officials asked people to steer clear of the area so emergency crews could work quickly.
Resident Mike Pompeo – who bought a house in the area last August with his wife – said the fire burned a portion of his fence. He rushed home after his wife called to tell him about the fire, scared the blaze would spread to their home.
Pompeo told NBC 7 that several pine trees line the backyards of homes in the area, and he believes the fire started in the trees and then jumped onto fences.
His wife voluntarily evacuated their home, taking Pompeo’s motorcycle and a few other belongings with her just in case.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire officials believe it began near the SR-125 off-ramp.
No homes were damaged, but brush in several yards did burn. Crews remained on scene monitoring hot spots and making sure homes were safe.
Other than Brick’s pet pigs, no other injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.