Residents of an Escondido apartment complex awakened Saturday to sounds of loud booms – which some said sounded like gunfire – as flames consumed a carport and a parked car.
“I remember a loud boom, being afraid it was gunshots,” Escondido resident Monique Rodriguez explained. “Then I heard another boom, really thinking it was gunshots, so I got up out of bed and by the time I got to my door, there was another boom, and when I opened the door the flames were just ridiculously high.”
The Escondido Fire Department (EFD) said a car fire sparked at around 3:40 a.m. in the alley near an 8-unit apartment complex between W. 6th and 7th avenues. The flames quickly spread, tearing through several carports, destroying an SUV and damaging other cars.
The fire then spread to two apartment units on W. 7th Avenue where residents had just seconds to gather themselves and run to safety. All residents were able to safely evacuate and no one was injured.
“It seems like nobody knows what happened yet, but my dad's truck was parked right behind the apartments and it exploded, and that makes the whole thing worse,” one resident told NBC 7.
EFD Battalion Chief Mike Bertrand said seven engines, two trucks, two battalion chiefs and a fire investigator responded to the blaze. Firefighters aggressively tackled the flames and, within 40 minutes, the fire was knocked out.
Bertrand said an SUV, carport and two apartments sustained damage from the fire. Two additional apartments sustained minor smoke damage.
San Diego Gas & Electric crews spent Saturday repairing a downed power line and damaged power pole impacted by the fire. Surrounding homes were without power for most of the day.
Residents of the complex spent the day sifting through their belongings, many of the items burned beyond recognition.
For now, all eight units have been deemed unsafe to enter, so residents are displaced. The Red Cross is offering help to the fire victims.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.