Residents credit a San Diego County deputy, who saw smoke and pounded on their front door, with getting a sleeping family out of their Ramona home as it was engulfed in flames Friday.
The fire erupted at about 5:30 a.m. in an outbuilding behind the 1920s home on 600 B Street, off state Route 78.
Shortly after the fire sparked, a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy on routine patrol noticed smoke coming from the two-story home and pounded on their front door to alert the family, the homeowner's granddaughter Lilia Bates said.
The home belonged to an Octaviano and Lupe Garcia who had lived in the home for nearly 50 years. Friday was Octaviano Garcia's 94th birthday.
Their granddaughter, Lilia Bates, said the home held memories of family Christmases and secret passageways for the couple's 11 kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
"They had secret passages in the house, so that was really cool. None of us went through the secret passages because we always thought they were haunted," Bates said.
The couple and six other family members who were sleeping inside the home when the fire erupted were evacuated as Cal Fire and Barona Fire crews arrived on scene to battle flames.
About six dogs were also able to escape the blaze.
Crews fought the fire for about an hour as flames poured from the home's upper story windows and smoke rose above Ramona, aerial footage of the scene showed.
Cal Fire said the home did not have smoke detectors but it was not clear what caused the fire to spark and fully engulf the home in flames. An investigation is ongoing.
"My grandma still thinks she can go inside later on and get some stuff out but they can’t get anything out," Bates said. "All of their pictures are pretty much gone and a lot of memories are just going to be memories. We’re not gonna be able to see them in photos or anything."
In February, strong winds during a National Weather Service wind advisory knocked down a 100-year-old tree outside the Garcias home, causing a power outage and a road closure.
Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties was called to assist the displaced family. It was not clear how much damage the fire caused.