Nearly two dozen residents, many with special needs, were evacuated in El Cajon early Sunday when a fire ignited and threatened the house they live in.
When a car caught fire in front of the Hauers home in the 2700 block of Willow Glen Drive in El Cajon, near the Cottonwood Golf Club at about 4 a.m., father and son Chuck and Collin Hauer ran outside to temper the flames with a garden hose before firefighters arrived.
"I ran out here and I helped my dad to put the flames down and then the fire trucks came and put the rest of the fire out," Collin said.
The blaze started as a car fire but firefighters were able to put out flames before they fully spread to the home. The roof, one wall and a window did receive some damage.
In front of the home was what's left of Collin's car. Next to it, a van donated to them in 2014 by the charity Passion 4 K.I.D.S. fully equipped to carry wheelchairs, which several of the Hauer children use.
Chuck Hauer and his wife Penny have adopted dozens of orphaned special needs children throughout their lifetime, in addition to having five of their own. Twenty people were inside the home at the time of the blaze, Penny told NBC 7.
The van is the family's main mode of transportation.
"The van was just a godsend because there aren’t a lot of places that can come and pick you up and take you in a timely manner and Caleb has a lot of doctor's appointments," Penny said referring to one of her children. "They all have a lot of doctor's appointments."
Luckily, Everyone was safely evacuated before SMFD firefighters arrived and no one was injured.
"I went into mom mode getting kids out and I think we got them all out within five to ten minutes because I knew once I heard that window go out, that room could go out in a minute.”
Investigators with the SMFD were still working to determine what caused the fire, but Penny said the family will count their blessings.
While embracing her daughter who has down syndrome, Penny says she is just glad everyone is safe.
"I won't argue, it hasn’t been a great day," Penny said. "But it's not as bad as it could have been.
"We have an awful lot to be thankful for."
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.