San Diego

Blazing Apartment Fire Uproots Dozens of Imperial Beach Residents Before Thanksgiving

A fire at an apartment complex in Imperial Beach early Wednesday left dozens of residents without a place to stay just one day before Thanksgiving.

Luz Tabiolo was one of about 40 residents displaced by the fire at an apartment complex on Iris Avenue, in a neighborhood off of Imperial Avenue.

She awoke to the smell of smoke but thought she was dreaming, she told NBC 7. She was quickly awoken to reality when she spotted flames. 

"I grabbed my kids and my father-in-law and yell, 'Everybody, get out! Get out,'" Tabiolo said. "Right now, I’m still shaking."

When firefighters arrived at about 4 a.m., flames were pouring from the windows. 

Deputies were already there and had attempted to put the fire out with an extinguisher but the flames were too fierce, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Felix Santiesteban. 

The fire was quickly raised to a second alarm and there were concerns the blaze could spread to a nearby Naval outpost but crews were able to contain it to the complex. The fire was knocked down in 30 minutes. 

Deputies helped evacuated dozens of people from the home. In the process, one was burned on his arms but was treated at the scene and released, officials said.

The deputy told NBC 7 a melted curtain fell on him but said he was just doing his job. 

There were no other injuries. 

At least half of the eight-unit complex was destroyed, Santiesteban said. The four units that remained were likely damaged as well. 

Red Cross was called to assist residents who would not be able to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday. A nearby Naval lodge also opened its door for displaced residents.

"We went to Costco yesterday to buy ham and turkey, everything for tomorrow," Tabiolo said. "Well, it’s OK as long as we’re OK. That’s the main thing."

"All my turkey is on the outside. It's already cooked," she joked.

Tabiolo's family of six was displaced. A GoFundMe link was created to help with expenses. 

Resident Mike Beniston said a large group of complex residents was planning a Thanksgiving get together in the patio area.

"They were going to be cooking and they were going to have tables in that area. They were going to have a lot of people over, that was kind of there one gathering spot."

Beniston said several neighbors in the area showed up to the complex with blankets, sweaters and coats to give the displaced residents.

Investigators with the SDSO's bomb-arson unit were working to determine what caused the blaze but preliminary reports indicated a propane tank may be to blame. 

No other information was available.

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