San Diego

Tenants: Storm-Damaged Roof Led to Fire in El Cajon

A fire started on a cold night inside an El Nino-storm damaged home spread to the roof and threatened nearby homes, tenants told NBC 7 San Diego.  

The fire started inside the home on El Rey Court at approximately 8:40 p.m. Monday. At one point, flames shot 40 feet above the house.

Heartland Fire crews were able to contain the fire despite unusually strong winds, heavy vegetation and limited space between homes. 

On Tuesday, NBC 7 San Diego caught up with tenants who say they are struggling to recover items from inside the home. 

"If it's not melted from the fire, it's damaged by the water," said Frankie Kelchner. 

Kelchner moved into the home five months ago and shares the rent with four other tenants. He said on a cold Monday night, they decided to light a fire in the fireplace.

Kelchner saw smoke in the hallway and went downstairs outside to investigate and heard a neighbor yelling "Fire, fire" and saw the roof glowing.

He went back in and yelled for everyone to get out. Everyone escaped without injury. 

In January, the ceiling collapsed after unusually heavy rainfall. The residents say the property management company covered the roof with a tarp.

The tenants showed NBC 7 an email from the property management company explaining that the earliest possible roof repairs would be in June 2016.

NBC 7 reached out to the property management company for a response but did not receive one by the time this story aired. 

Roommate April Shiner reached out to NBC 7 saying the only clothes they had were the ones they were wearing. 

"I don't even know where to start," Shiner told us.

She has set up an online fundraising page to help the group with expenses. 

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