Officials are investigating arson as the possible cause of a fire that spread to an apartment complex in Escondido, forcing more than a dozen residents to evacuate.
The blaze broke out just before 2 a.m. at a complex located in the 920 block of South Hale Avenue.
According to investigators, a row of about 20 Italian Cypress trees caught on fire and the embers, fueled by light winds, blew the blaze into a nearby apartment complex, the Escondido Fire Department (EFD) said.
At least three apartment units on the third level of the building were damaged by the fire, as well as several cars parked at the complex. Officials said the back bedroom of one of those units sustained the heaviest damage.
The family that lives in that unit told NBC 7 they had to escape the flames by jumping off the roof of a neighbor’s unit because the staircase leading to their apartment was next to the trees that burned. Another resident told NBC 7 he woke up to his dog barking and then realized flames were creeping toward his apartment building.
In the end, all residents were able to safely evacuate the complex. Fire officials said a 10-year-old child stepped on hot embers and suffered minor injuries. No other injuries were reported.
Fire crews made holes in the roof of the units to get the smoke out and tackle the fire. The blaze was knocked down within 45 minutes, the EFD said.
A total of 15 residents were displaced. The Red Cross was called to the scene to help those residents. Hours later, some families returned to board up their homes and gather their belongings.
As of 10:30 a.m., the cause of the fire remained under investigation and officials had not yet determined if it was set intentionally.
The Escondido Police Department (EPD) confirmed one man was arrested on an unrelated charge shortly after the fire.
Police said that man made some comments about a fire, so investigators are working to determine if he’s in any way connected to this fire.