EL CAJON, Calif. – A family of 21 people, many of which were adopted and have special needs, were evacuated early Sunday after a car fire spread to their house in El Cajon.
“Thank God we are all right here,” homeowner Penny Hauer said. “We got everybody out in a very short amount of time. Everybody did their job and everybody was on the porch safe with a blanket to cover them up so I have so much to be thankful for."
Hauer and her adopted children were evacuated from their eight-bedroom home in the 2700 block of Willow Glen Drive.
San Miguel Fire Department officials said the blaze appears to have started in one of the cars and then spread to the front of the home.
Firefighters said they wanted to do their best to help because the Hauer family has spent their lives helping others.
“I understand that the family has adopted over 21 people over the course of 40 years...18 of the 21 they’ve adopted are disabled and they range in age from 12 to 51 years old. They’ve done this through the years because they want to help people out,” Battalion Chief Andy Lawler said.
Despite some exterior damage, the Hauer family is fortunate the destruction was not worse.
“Very fortunate with no working smoke detectors that everybody got out,” Lawler said. “Turned out to be a very fortunate situation at the end of the day.”
Although fire officials have not determined the cause of the fire, they found fuel cans next to the car that caught fire and speculate that thieves were trying to steal fuel.
The family was not forced to find temporary housing because the flames were contained to the outside of the house.
San Miguel firefighters started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the family.