With the help of neighbors, a couple in Rancho Penasquitos escaped a raging fire Tuesday that ripped through their home, generating heavy smoke seen for miles.
The blaze broke out at Bourgueois Way and Stargazer Avenue at approximately 5:35 p.m., San Diego Fire-Rescue (SDFD) Capt. Amador said.
Officials said the fire sparked on the north side of the house in a back corner while the couple was having dinner in the opposite side of the home.
The couple said their house has working smoke detectors, but it was a warning knock at the door from neighbors that got them out of the house safely.
In a video recorded on a cell phone, resident Irma Pimentel can be seen with her hands on her head walking out the front door of her two-story home as thick smoke rises. Had she looked behind her, she most certainly would’ve run.
Neighbors saw the smoke and sprang into action, alerting the couple inside.
“There were two guys or three guys that came in told me ‘Get out, don’t take anymore, don’t go up,’” Pimentel said. “I thank God. He spared our lives.”
Neighbors also ran to a woman’s house next door to the fire, the home of 93-year-old Joyce Saner, and got her out quickly.
“These ladies over here hauled me around and took very good care of me,” Saner told NBC 7.
The fire seemed to start on or near a screened porch on the first floor of the house. It quickly spread to the second floor and roof, and then threatened Saner’s neighboring property.
Neighbors Les Dubow and Steve Swendrowski, carrying a garden hose, jumped in to help.
“We were keeping the water on the fence as much as we could, steering it toward the neighbor’s side,” Dubow explained.
“Just a reaction kind of thing,” said Swendrowski. “We’ve all lived in this neighborhood for a long time, so it’s just something you want to do.”
NBC 7 readers reported seeing the fire from State Route 56 during rush hour traffic.
A total of 31 firefighters from three departments fought the massive house fire.
Crews caught a break when the wind blew ashes toward the street and away from Black Mountain, making it easier for crews to contain the blaze to one home.
Before leaving her burning home, Pimentel said she was most concerned with salvaging her family’s passports, which they had recently renewed for an overseas cruise.
But, when the thick, black smoke cleared, it was that short trip from danger to safety that should prove to be more memorable.
“We are still alive,” she said, relieved. “You know, others don’t get out of [a] house [fire] alive, and we thank the fireman and our neighbors.”
Fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze. Arson is not suspected and officials believe it was an accident. And, while the house was not a total loss, the home did sustain heavy damage.