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Apartment fire displaces three families

Residents of a low-income apartment complex in the 1100 block of Alturas Road had a fiery wakeup call in the early morning hours of Friday, February 12.

The fire occurred at Pine View Apartments around 6:30 a.m. in one of the second-story apartments and was caused by a lit cigarette that was left unattended, fire officials said. As a result of the fire, two adjoining apartments were damaged.

The resident whose apartment caught fire is known by his first name of “Ray” to his neighbors and is described as a man in his 50s who suffers from mental challenges and is prone to mood swings. Due to privacy laws, officials would not disclose the man’s last name.

The blaze trapped Ray in his bedroom and he hung out of his window as neighbors yelled at him to jump to safety. His fellow residents finally coaxed Ray from his apartment but said he did not jump until the fire was actually burning him.

“We were begging him, and then he started screaming before he jumped down,” said one resident, who asked not to be identified.

Witnesses say Ray dived head-first from his bedroom window and Zachary Casale, a fellow Pine View resident, broke his fall.

“There was nothing to pile up [under the window] to get him,” said Casale. “I think I broke his fall, since he landed on his head.”

Casale said Ray was “shaken up” but unhurt.

“I had never met him before today, but I did what I think anyone would do,” said Casale.

Meanwhile, Pine View residents fought the fire, which witnesses described as “coming out the front door,” until firefighters arrived.

Devin Goodrich, the resident below Ray’s apartment, kicked down the door to the man’s apartment and tried to subdue the fire with an extinguisher. Others worked with buckets of water but the fire persisted.

When emergency crews from North County Fire and Camp Pendleton Fire arrived at the scene, the blaze was knocked down within a half-hour.

North County Fire Protection District public information officer John Buchanan said that due to the damage caused by the fire there would be “extensive overhaul” required to the structure.

The families displaced by the fire were housed in vacant apartments at the 16-unit complex and several thrift stores were called for donations of clothing and household goods.

Ray was taken by ambulance to the University of California, San Diego Burn Center, suffering from non-life-threatening injuries, including minor burns and smoke inhalation.

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