Trees Burned “Like Roman Candles” in Rancho Penasquitos

A man is being called a hero after he jumped on a roof to fight a Rancho Penasquitos blaze that fire officials said burned eucalyptus and palm trees "like Roman candles."

The flames broke out around 12:45 p.m. Thursday just west of Interstate 15 near State Route 56 and Carmel Mountain Road.

According to San Diego Fire Capt. Chris Bobbler, the fire started in an open space between the freeway and residential properties. Nearby, joggers and walkers frequent an underground freeway tunnel. 

The blaze burned up a canyon to the back fences of homes that border the open area. Two houses were threatened: one in the 14000 block of Caminito Quevedo and the other in the 10000 block of Caminata DeLuz.

It was there that 20-year-old Jason Smith jumped on the roof with a fire extinguisher to take care of flying embers.

"It took a while because I was extinguishing the fire, then it would grow back up again, so I'd stomp on it and then extinguish it at the same time," said Smith. 

The homeowner said he's very thankful for the brave man. 

Another homeowner Brett Christlieb said he saw the flames coming right at his house.

"I said, 'That's moving pretty fast,' so I grabbed as much stuff as I could and told my wife, 'Gotta go. Gotta go now,'" Christlieb said.

Fire crews made two helicopter water drops because the fire was difficult to reach through the thick vegetation, according to Battalion Chief Greg Donnelly.

Firefighters were able to get it under control by 1:15 p.m. after it burned about three-quarters of an acre.

It does not appear to be freeway-caused, Bobbler said, and investigators said they plan to interview residents nearby to see if they have any clues to the cause. 

No homes were damaged, and there were no injuries reported.

Donnelly said San Diego Fire-Rescue has extra staff on hand Thursday because of the warm, windy weather. Some of those extra crews responded to this fire. 

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