Home Condemned After Water-Soaked Hillside Collapses Beneath It

San Bernardino County home declared condemned

A water-saturated hillside gave way beneath a home in Grand Terrace, forcing the homeowners to abandon the home after authorities declared it unsafe.

San Bernardino County firefighters responded to the scene, at 22846 Vista Grande Way (map), on Tuesday morning.

The home, which has sweeping views northward to Colton and San Bernardino, was surrounded by yellow "do not cross" caution tape and appeared to be straddling a gash in the earth underneath it.

The single-story house was declared condemned after a 20-foot-wide section under the home's rear deck gave way, opening up a fissure in the earth underneath the structure. Fire officials on scene said it appeared a broken water pipe caused the hillside to collapse.

"The cement that the house is built on is cracking and it looks like it could give way," said fire Capt. Ed Noble.

Homeowner Arthur Jimenez told NBC4 he was running on a treadmill when he and his wife Rosalinda heard a loud bang -- and then firefighters arrived and asked them to leave the home at about 8 a.m.

"I looked out on the patio and I noticed water just streaming down the hillside," Arthur Jimenez said.

The couple, who said they had lived in the home since 1998, were removing valuables from the property just before noon. Jimenez said he is a doctor with a practice in Victorville.

"As a matter of fact, we're in the process of remodeling the house. Our kitchen, our bathroom -- everything's almost ready," Jimenez said. "It's really disappointing."

Someone who saw the hillside damage from the mall below, the Colton Courtyard shopping center, notified authorities. The Jimenezes were initially unaware of the damage, which is behind the home.

The back patio of the home was visilbly bowing and was cordoned off. Homes on other side were not in danger, the fire captain on scene said.

Jimenez said he was afraid the family would lose everything.

"Hopefully the engineer will give us assistance, make it stronger and firmer in the future to live on," he said.

Jimenez said the couple had been thinking about getting earth movement insurance in 2004, when the home experienced a smaller slide, but they opted against it because of the $5,000 annual price tag. Now he wishes they had insurance.

At least one business owner in the shopping center below said she was concerned about the hillside collapsing toward the stores.

Noble said fire officials felt the hillside was far enough away that it wouldn't "make it that far," but the back parking lot of the businesses was closed off for safety.

A geotechnical engineer will examine the damage Wednesday morning and determine whether the family can return home.

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