San Diego

20-Year-Old Neighbor Injured Helping Victim in Santee House Fire

A 20-year-old neighbor, attempting to help a man during a fire in Santee, severely burned his hands and was taken to the hospital Friday evening.

According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department (SDSO), the fire began at 5:17 p.m. in the 8500 block of Desireee Lane near Atlas View Drive.

From across the street a neighbor captured dramatic images of the Rondinelli home going up in flames.

Inside the home, 60-year-old Naz Rondinelli had been taking a nap.

"My dad heard the smoke alarm go off, came out of his bedroom went to the garage door inside the house opened it and it was engulfed in flames," the victim’s daughter Miranda Rondinelli said.

Investigators aren't sure of the cause but say the fire definitely started in the garage.

They said the 20-year-old neighbor burned his hands trying to lift the garage door to get to Naz.

He was taken to UCSD Hospital.

“It’s great that he helped but it's one of those things that unless you're trained and have the equipment, it's really easy to get yourself in the position to get hurt,” Santee Fire Chief John Sengebusch said.

Another neighbor rushed to aid Eileen Burks, whose house is the one in front of the flames. Burks has MS and lives alone.

“I feel good. I feel it's cold, I want to go home,” Burks said. 

A large box of ammunition in the garage could be heard popping in the heat of the flames. Live power lines fell from the roof and danced in the street, while an open gas line fed the fire inside.

First responders were held at bay for 20 minutes until they could get close enough to aggressively attack the flames.

Despite the potential for a far worse outcome, the fire was contained primarily to the garage and Naz escaped without injury.

"He's thankful he said thanks and is thanking all the firemen also,” Miranda said.

Unfortunately, the family's cat, named Tazzy, whom they have had for 10 years, did not survive the fire.

Sengebusch said the family had lived in the house for 25 years and had currently been in escrow. The family was packing to move.

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