A quick-thinking police officer rescued a woman trying to escape a two-alarm fire inside an El Cajon home, a witness told NBC 7.
The 89-year-old woman was hospitalized in an induced coma at the UC San Diego Burn Center after she was caught in the 2-alarm fire, her family confirmed. They said she's in serious condition.
One of the victim's neighbors, Glenn Yamashiro, told NBC 7 that an El Cajon police officer saw the woman trying to escape the fire and took action.
"She jumped the fence and saw an elderly lady trying to crawl out of the house, so she went immediately over," Yamashiro said. "And naturally, there is smoke and fire. [She] grabbed her and started to pull her out."
It was the initial fire that burned the woman, according to the Heartland Fire Department. Yamashiro noticed burns on her back and arms.
Heartland Fire officials received multiple calls reporting a house fire on Teatro Circle, just south of Greenfield Middle School. At about 7:50 a.m., crews responded to the scene, arriving less than five minutes later, Sonny Saghera said, the spokesperson for the Heartland Fire Department.
Once they determined the blaze was a 2-alarm fire, the department sent eight fire engines, two ladder trucks and a couple battalion chiefs to put out the flames, Saghera said. They were assisted by crews from San Miguel Fire, Santee Fire and Lakeside Fire.
The woman was discovered inside the home, suffering from burns and smoke inhalation, Saghera said. She was taken to a nearby hospital.
Firefighters worked to put out the flames which started on the downstairs level of the house, Saghera said. The fire broke through a window, shattering the glass, and spread through the opening to the upstairs level and another adjacent home.
Within 20 minutes, they were able to extinguish the fire, Saghera said. The flames left the house with significant fire and smoke damage.
After the fire was put out, crews followed protocols to search for hot spots and found none, Heartland Fire Battalion Chief Kelly Sisson said. But shortly after they left, flames broke out a second time at the same structure.
As of 11:50 a.m., flames had surged up the roof and clouds of ashen smoke pooled over a hollow, sunken space in the ceiling. Then, a firefighter sprayed a hose through the ceiling to put out the second bout of flames. Crews saturated the attic with water to make sure the fire was completely out this time.
Sisson explained that while it's rare for homes to reignite, it does happen sometimes.
"What happens occasionally in the attic space when they have a lot of the installation is very, very small embers are still burning," Sisson said. "Very hard to detect--especially when you can't get to the attic because the floor that the guys would have had to stand on to check the attic was compromised."
No firefighters were injured in the blaze. Saghera said the estimated damage to the structure is roughly $500,000.
There was no further information immediately available.