A family of nine was forced to flee their longtime home in El Cajon overnight when a fire ripped through their property.
Heartland Fire & Rescue crews were called to a house on Emerald Avenue near Skyview Street at around 3 a.m. Saturday. Neighbors said they heard several explosions as flames engulfed a home and motorhome.
The family who lives there said the heat from the fire blew out their windows.
Nobody was hurt but hours after the flames were knocked out, the family was still in shock.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. It’s like you’re in a nightmare that you’re trying to wake up from but you can’t,” said Valerie Sustaita, who raised her children in the home.
While the family escaped the flames, Sustaita’s father, Richard Solis, stayed behind and tried to put out the fire with a garden hose, to no avail.
“I have my moments when I think about it and cry,” said Sustaita.
The family escaped only with the clothes they were wearing. Almost everything inside the home was destroyed, but a photo of Solis and his wife on their wedding day survived the fire.
“See that’s my parents. Can’t knock them down, can’t burn them down,” Sustaita said, showing the photo to NBC 7.
“Don’t worry, we’ll survive,” Solis said. “We always do.”
Despite the stressful ordeal, the family is optimistic about their future.
The family does have insurance and will be staying in a hotel temporarily. No one was hurt and for that, the family is grateful.
“Material things can be replaced but our loved ones can’t, so as long as everyone got out safe, that’s all that matters,” said Sustaita. “We’re going to stick together and rebuild.”
The fire destroyed an RV, and damaged a neighboring home. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.