San Diego

‘Very Lucky' Off-Duty Firefighters Slowed Spread of Pacific Beach Condo Fire, Chief Says

The fire started in a downstairs unit that was filled with motorcycles and car parts, which made for a "very flammable situation"

Two off-duty firefighters are credited for stopping the spread of a destructive fire at a Pacific Beach condo complex Thursday morning. 

The firefighters who happened to live in the complex on Diamond Street near Pacific Beach Community Park jumped into action after the fire erupted inside a downstairs unit at about 4:30 a.m.

They "heard the fire and ran for assistance and actually were able to close the front door of the unit that was on fire, which helped confine it to that unit and keep it from spreading to additional units," San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Craig Newell said. 

When four fire engines and two dozen on-duty firefighters arrived to the scene, the off-duty firefighters had already pulled fire lines and evaluated the building's structure.

The prep work helped SDFD get the blaze out within 30 minutes with only minor smoke spread to the upstairs units.

"We were very lucky they were here. They were able to give good direction to the units that came on scene," Newell said. 

The residents of four units self-evacuated but, at one point, felt like they may be trapped, according to Vanessa Costantino who was asleep upstairs when she heard a commotion and woke her boyfriend up.

"He checks downstairs and its fully just smoke coming in in all directions. He checks the stairwell and is 'Alright, we’re going to have to go out a window,'" she said. 

Luckily, they were able to cover their faces and push through the cloud of smoke. Other residents were forced to jump out of their windows to get out, Costantino said. 

One person suffered smoke inhalation injuries but refused to be taken to the hospital, Newell said. 

The fire started in a downstairs unit that was filled with motorcycles and car parts, which made for a "very flammable situation," Newell said, adding that it was lucky that the fire was halted before it could get to any fuel tanks.

Residents of the unit would not be able to live in the building for weeks or months, Newell said. Other units had minor damage and were still livable. 

Fire investigators were called to evaluate the blaze. The cause of the fire was not yet known but what was known was that without the assist from the off-duty firefighters, the fire would have been much larger, Newell said. 

"Were they heroes? It’s kind of something we do everyday. I wouldn’t expect to put that label on them," Newell said. "If it was a citizen yes, but they just did their job when they happened to be off duty and it was a great help." 

No other information was available.

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