Residents evacuate as fire tears through apartment building

SAN DIEGO -- A fire that started on the ground floor of a two-story apartment building forced residents to evacuate Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters received a call about the blaze at the Alta Mesa Apartments at 3441 Ruffin Road in the Serra Mesa area at 1:23 p.m. When they arrived, they found flames and heavy smoke coming from the building.

“That’s when I decided to wake up my roommate," said resident Erick Iniguez. "I came back out and I see the officers going from door to door, trying to get everyone out."

Sixteen San Diego Fire-Rescue units responded to the call. Residents evacuated from the building and fire crews knocked down the flames in less than 20 minutes.

Officers with the San Diego Police Department also helped evacuate residents and direct traffic on Ruffin Road.

Investigators said the fie started in a ground floor apartment and spread to three other units.

No one was injured in the fire, fire officials said. There was no immediate damage estimate, but two apartments were left uninhabitable. Power was cut off to the building while SDGE inspected scorched power lines, said Battalion Chief Grace Yamane.

"We’ve got all these power lines and it made it really tough for our aerial ladder to ladder the roof so that we could make access to ventilate that fire," Yamane said.

Two adults and two children lived in the apartment where the fire started,  but it is unclear if anyone was home at the time, Yamane said. Two adults and two pets lived in the second unit that was badly damaged.

Metro Arson Strike Team investigators determined the fire was caused by a stove malfunction.

The estimated damage to the building was $120,000, damage to contents was estimated at $50,000 and there was about $30,000 in additional damage to areas outside the building, Munoz said.

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