La Mesa residents rushed to escape a fast-moving fire that burned two homes and damaged trees and fences Friday.
Hours later, investigators announced they arrested a man for starting that fire with the flick of a cigarette.
Jackson Pavlicek, 31, of La Mesa, faces charges of reckless burning of property for allegedly extinguishing a cigarette in the backyard, causing brush to catch fire officials said Friday.
The fire started a little before 3:30 p.m. at 9100 Dillon Drive.
Smoke could be seen from miles away as the crew worked to put out the fire.
At least three fire trucks responded to the scene and when they arrived one home was fully engulfed in flames.
It took Heartland fire crews more than two hours to contain the fire.
One girl, Emily, lives in the area and said she noticed the fire right away and told her father to call 911.
“We were swimming and then I looked over and we saw this big smoke,” she recalled.
Neighbor Pat Knobloch lives just east of the fire and quickly put on a mask when she noticed the smoke.
“The first thing I did was check outside to see where it was coming from,” said Knobloch. “I don’t want to smell the smoke, who knows what you’re breathing.”
Three people had been staying there but no one was hurt.