Large Mudslide Damages Backyard of College Heights Home

The mudslide caused extensive damage in the yard of a home on Dorothy Way

Crews with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) were called to a College Heights neighborhood Wednesday after a massive mudslide formed in the backyard of a home.

The mudslide created a mess on the private property in the 5600 block of Dorothy Way, a street in the College Area near San Diego State University. At 9:15 a.m., firefighters were at the scene, barricading the area and determining what to do next.

SDFD officials said a College Heights resident called authorities to report some sort of sinkhole or mudslide in his neighbor’s yard. 

Officials said the mudslide spans a large portion of the rear of the property, impacting an area around a swimming pool, a cabana and an embankment in the backyard that leads to a ravine.

SDFD Capt. Joe Amador told NBC 7 the mudslide is approximately 40 feet wide and goes about 150 feet down from the property into the ravine. He said some parts of the home's yard slid into the ravine.

The cabana sustained damage. Aerial footage of the home showed the embankment littered with muddy debris.

In addition to firefighters, officers with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), a structural engineer, city inspectors, a contractor and officials with the water department were called out to the home. A San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) crew was also requested.

Five college students rent the house, so the property owner was also called to the site.

The cause of the mudslide is under investigation. Amador said some irrigation pipes at the site were leaking about a week ago but it is unclear, at this point, if that contributed to the mudslide. A broke pool pump is also being investigated as a possible factor.

The student residents told officials they heard loud noises stemming from the yard two nights ago. When they got home around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, they noticed something was off about the yard. On Wednesday morning they awakened to the muddy mess, the students told NBC 7.

Amador said the home itself is intact and the residents and neighbors were not injured in the incident. He said investigators were working to determine whether the mudslide was undermining home's foundation and just how "precarious" the situation might be.

Amador said the bulk of the damage appears to be on private property but investigators are also looking to see if any part of the mudslide lies on city land. Property records say it's a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,827-square-foot residence.

Structural engineers remained at the scene all day trying to determine if the house was inhabitable. As of 1 p.m., the residents were allowed to go back inside the home.

Inspectors were also trying to determine if the mudslide posed potential danger to neighboring homes. With rain expected to trickle in over the next few days, Amador said crews will do everything they can to protect the area before rainfall and prevent more dirt from giving way.

“The rains could be a real problem, which will determine whether or not they get to stay in the house or not,” Amador explained.

Next-door neighbor Julia Bain told NBC 7 she hoped the incident wouldn’t impact her home.

“This is my house for over 60 years and I don’t know what I’d do if I had problems. Guess we will figure it out one day at a time,” said Bain. “I hope it doesn’t come on my side.”

A city inspector put signs on properties near the mudslide. Yellow tags meant a house could be occupied while red signs meant no one was allowed in or out of the structure. A neighboring garage and studio on one side of the mudslide were tagged with yellow signs, while a shed directly behind the home was tagged with a red sign as a precaution.

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