NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — Firefighters discovered a body as they battled to control a wildfire burning near the Plaza Bonita Mall Wednesday afternoon.
Crews came across the body at about 2 p.m. as they were trying to contain the 1-acre blaze in an area known for homeless encampments. The body was so badly burned that they could not determine if it was a man or woman, fire officials said.
“Police personal haven’t been able to go in and determine the condition of the body,” said Capt. Jose Tellez.
Mary Kirkendall lives in the riverbed where the fire started and was able to escape the flames without getting injured, but she was worried her friend didn’t make it out.
“I can’t find her, she’s not anywhere near anyone else’s camp,” said Kirkendall, who is convinced the victim found was her friend. “I’m positive it’s her, she’s the only one missing.”
The fire broke out at about 12:30 p.m. in the wooded area between Interstate 805 and the Plaza Bonita Mall. Because of the proximity to the mall and the high winds, firefighters hit the blaze with at least 20 trucks and a helicopter. Crews from Chula Vista, Bonita and San Diego helped National City firefighters put a containment line around the fire as a helicopter from the San Diego Fire Department dropped water from above.
The fire was contained in about 90 minutes. Firefighters monitored the area for hot spots for the next few hours.
Fire investigators planned on returning to the riverbed Thursday morning to determine the cause of the fire and find more details about the person who died.
Kirkendall told Fox 5 the fire started at her friend’s front door.
“She has a little structure in there. She’s lived there for 6 years. I know she has propane bottles, I heard the popping, popping, popping of the propane bottles,” said Kirkendall.