A huge apartment fire in Clairemont Tuesday morning displaced nearly two dozen residents and caused over $1 million in damage.
Firefighters responded to the 2-alarm fire after midnight at an apartment complex on the 3000-block of Caminito Aguilar, according to the San Diego Fire Department.
Ten adults and four children were evacuated from the building. They left with little but the clothes on their backs, knowing many of their posessions might be destroyed.
A woman and her two teenage daughters were trapped inside the building as it began filling with smoke and flames.
"They were terrified," said neighbor James Anderson. "They were like 'help us help us' and smoke was billowing out."
Officer Zach Bradley was smart to check if anyone was trying to get out the back of the apartment building on Mt. Aguilar Drive. He saw the three women calling for help from a window on the second floor.
"I told them to jump out of the window and as they did I caught them," Bradley said.
He added that they weren't heavy -- each probably about 100 pounds each. However witnesses and neighbors were touched by heroicism.
"He's definitely a hero," Anderson said. "He was definitely thinking on his toes to be back there."
Paramedics transported four people to Kaiser and UCSD Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
The fire department said four apartments were completely destroyed in the fire. Investigators determined the blaze was caused by a grease fire when a woman cooked French fries. Damage to the complex is estimated at $1.1 million.
And some of the damages were more than just material.
Andrey Borobigskiy told NBC 7 that he lost most of his belongings and his 6 month old kitten, shadow.
"My cat got left behind," he said. "He pretty much suffocated in my room."
While he regrets losing his pet and belongings, he said it could have been much worse.
"It sucks, but it's better than losing my life," he said.
The Red Cross is helping to relocate the families. Some residents said they are staying at other apartments in the complex.
The Tenants Legal Center of San Diego pointed to this fire as a reminder of the importance of renter's insurance.
Experts say, legally, if a tenant accidentally starts a large fire like this one, he or she could be personally responsible for everyone's lost property.
Renter's insurance is not required by California state law but it can help cover accidents like these.