San Diego

‘He Was on Fire': Neighbor Recounts Valencia Park Explosion, Boat Fire

A neighbor told NBC 7 he heard a "big boom" and then saw flames ripping through his neighbor's yard on Churchward Street

A man working on a boat parked in his yard in a Valencia Park neighborhood was severely burned Friday when his boat exploded, catching ablaze and forcing him to go running for help while he, too, was on fire.

“He was literally on fire, running away from the explosion,” said neighbor and witness Jose Cruz. “It was really crazy.”

Cruz was on his patio with his daughter at around 12:15 p.m. in a neighborhood on Churchward Street, near Manzanares Way, when he heard a loud “boom” coming from the house next door.

Moments later, Cruz couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I saw an explosion and saw this guy just running – and he was on fire. He was running towards the house, and that’s when I said, ‘This is bad news.’ So I called 911 right away.”

Cruz’s girlfriend jumped the fence and tried to help the man on fire while Cruz called authorities.


San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) Battalion Chief Steve Salaz said the explosion started on a boat, with flames quickly spreading to two nearby cars.

The blaze damaged several other cars, also parked in the victim’s yard.

Cruz said his neighbor collects cars and boats and often fixes them up and tinkers with them in the yard.

Salaz said that when firefighters arrived, the victim – who was significantly burned – met them on the sidewalk in front of the home. He was taken to the UC San Diego Regional Burn Center for treatment.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No one else was hurt.

Contact Us