SAN DIEGO -- The backyard areas of five homes were scorched Saturday by a small fire in the Mountain View area, and firefighters battling that blaze witnessed the start of an unrelated fire that they quickly extinguished, authorities said.
The initial fire started about 3:50 p.m. in the 300 block of 46th Street in a finger canyon behind several homes, said Monica Munoz, spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
"It started as a vegetation fire but spread to some sheds and fences," Munoz said. "Three back yards were burned up, but there was no damage to the actual structures, and the families won't be displaced."
The homes were kept safe from the flames because of the fire crews' quick response, Munoz said.
"These guys jumped on it really quickly," she said.
The fire was under control in less than an hour.
Before firefighters got to the scene Gilbert Bernal said he tried to put the flames out with buckets of water.
“I was trying to do anything to stop the fire. I mean it was my neighbor's backyard,” Bernal said.
When the buckets ran dry he jumped into rescue mode.
“I was yelling people’s names out. Seeing if everyone was out,” Bernal said. “Then I ran next door. Their house was on fire. Their bird cages were engulfed. So I thought the birds were dead so that broke my heart. So then I heard a bunch of dogs in the backyard so I slide open the door, started taking dogs out."
Shortly after fire crews took over.
Homeowners are grateful they got the flames out just in time.
“I thank God that it happened and stopped right here so our house is okay,” Sofia Duenas told FOX 5.
A sigh of relief for them and Bernal who later found out the bird cages that were up in flames were empty and no one was hurt.
“That news was very relieving,” Bernal said.
The fire scotched about half an acre.
Fire officials are investigating the cause, but believe it started near a homeless encampment.