San Diego

3-Alarm Fire Damages Apartment Complex Under Construction in Rolando

San Diego police said a worker fell one story from the complex while using a blowtorch

A large cloud of smoke was visible across San Diego when flames tore through a construction site in the Rolando neighborhood Monday.

A roofer using a torch accidentally started a fire while working at a three-story apartment complex under construction at Amherst and 68th streets just after noon, San Diego Fire-Rescue officials confirmed.

While using a torch on a side wall, the roofer Santiago Martinez accidentally sparked a fire on the stucco paper. Flames swiftly shot up the wall and through the roof.

"I didn't even know that the stucco paper is flammable," Martinez told NBC 7. "I tried to put it out myself. In four seconds, it was already so big."

The worker fell one story from a scaffolding while trying to put out the fire with his hands, Battalion Chief Grace Yamane said. Martinez suffered a broken leg in the fall, she said. 

"The adrenaline--since I was scared--my body became rock solid so I made it," Martinez said. "Landed on my back but I'm strong."

At the time, he was the only worker present at the site. Martinez, who has worked as a roofer for over five years, said he was thankful to be outside the structure when it caught fire and make it out alive.

"If if I was inside in this flame, I don't think I would have made it out," Martinez said. "But I was being quick about it."

While there was no damage to surrounding houses in the area, a nearby power pole and a transformer caught fire but the flames were promptly extinguished, Yamane said. 

San Diego Gas and Electric crews were called because of the threat of the powerline collapsing on the dozens of firefighters who had responded to the scene, she said. 

Of the three buildings within the complex under construction, two were destroyed. Firefighters were able to stop the spread of the fire from reaching the third large building. 

No nearby homes were damaged. Fire crews from Lakeside, National City and other agencies assisted SDFD.

No evacuations were needed because it was an unoccupied building.

No other information was available.

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