San Diego

Neighbors Want Action After Fire Rips Through Nuisance Building in Hillcrest

The fire sparked just after 8:10 a.m. inside an empty building on Park Boulevard, sending heavy smoke into the air

A fire ripped through a vacant building in Hillcrest Tuesday morning -- a building that, according to neighbors, has long been a problem in the area.

The flames sparked just before 8:10 a.m. at a one-story structure along the 3900 block of Park Boulevard, near University Avenue. The area is across the street from a church, near small businesses, apartments and a senior center.

The building once housed an alterations business but locals told NBC 7 it has been sitting vacant for months. Neighbors said the empty structure has been attracting squatters and trespassers, bringing unwanted activity to the area.

“This is your investment, this is your home. Your community. I won’t tolerate it. I’m sick of it. They have to step up and do something," a neighbor said.

NBC 7 reached out to the city to see if it planned to take any action regarding concerns from neighbors but hasn't heard back.

When crews with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department got there, they could see flames tearing through the back of the building. Firefighters worked quickly to knock out the fire; some used ladders to reach the flames on the roof.

SDFD Battalion Chief Rob Hartman said crews attacked the blaze aggressively, and were able to keep it from spreading to surrounding buildings. Firefighters took extra precaution due to the "intensity" of the fire, Hartman added.

The battalion chief said approximately 30 fire personnel battled the blaze, a typical response for this type of commercial incident.

There was no one inside the building, Hartman confirmed. No one was hurt.

Hartman said officials found sewing equipment inside. He wasn't sure if the business that formerly operated out of there had left the equipment behind on purpose or if perhaps the business was in the middle of moving to another location. A sign on the outside read "Anh's Alterations."

The battalion chief said propane tanks were also found inside; firefighters secured those right away to prevent an explosion.

Hartman said investigators believe the fire started in back of the building but the cause has yet to be determined. He said crews would remain at the scene for several hours checking walls and ceilings for hot spots that could flare up.

"We're making sure we don't come back to the same fire," he explained.

Hillcrest resident Giovanni Marks told NBC 7 he was rattled when he looked outside and saw flames coming from an area close to where he had parked his car.

He feared his car was on fire and, even worse, that people were hurt.

"It was very, very scary," he recalled.

Marks was eventually able to get to his car and was relieved to see it hadn't been damaged.

The Hillcrest resident told NBC 7 the vacant building where the fire sparked is fairly active.

"There’s always people going in and out of that," Marks said. "There’s always a lot of people going through the gate."

Hartman said he has personally never been called out to this property on Park Boulevard, but did note there is a problem with squatters in the city.

No other information was immediately available.

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