A body and several secret compartments were found inside an Encinitas home damaged by fire Thursday, where neighbors came to the rescue of a man stranded on the roof.
The home at Rancho Encinitas Drive and Camino Ricardo, well known to San Diego County Sheriff's Department narcotics investigators, caught fire just before 4 a.m.
Neighbor Derek Gietzen told NBC 7 he watched as a man climbed out of a second-story window as flames roared through both floors. The man was bleeding from cuts and had no shirt or shoes on — just shorts.
"He kind of wandered back a little and sat down, and we're yelling at him to get off the roof, get off the roof," said Gietzen. "And we're saying, 'Is there anyone else inside the house?'"
The man laid down on the edge of the roof and appeared to pass out, so Gietzen and another neighbor stacked a barrel on a table in an effort to reach him — to no avail. They could not get high enough.
"We were standing there panicked because I'm there with my 17-year-old son and thought this guy is going to burn to death in front of us," said Gietzen.
The next set of windows blew out, forcing the onlookers back.
Finally, the 40-year-old man rolled off the roof and landed on the platform the good Samaritans had built. The man had severe burns on his back from the hot roof tiles, according to Gietzen.
He was soon taken to UCSD Medical Center, but not before he revealed there was one other person inside.
Officials say they found the body of a 23-year-old woman in a bedroom on the second floor. A mastiff identified as Max was also found dead.
The department's bomb/arson unit is investigating the cause of death.
Firefighters say it was difficult to attack the fire because the home had many tough-to-reach places.
Several rooms are not up to code and have been modified to hide things, Sheriff's Lt. Mark Moreno said. Crews were able to get a handle on it within 40-50 minutes. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Lt. Moreno said deputies have been out to the home seven times this year in connection with three drug-related investigations.
Most recently, law enforcement officers served two warrants on July 14 and took the homeowner and a second person into custody.
The homeowner, described as a woman in her 40s, has been arrested several times, officials said. Her cases are either pending or have been adjudicated, according to Lt. Moreno.
On Dec. 23, 2014, multiple agencies converged on the house to serve a search warrant that led to six arrests, including that of the homeowner. All were for outstanding warrants or drug offenses.
If you know anything about the fire or the home, call the sheriff's department at 858-565-5200.