SAN DIEGO — As authorities investigated a “suspicious” fire at the home of two of San Diego’s most influential political leaders Wednesday morning, a simple gesture from firefighters served as a powerful symbol for the family.
Officials are still trying to determine what sparked the flames early Wednesday at the doorstep of Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher and his wife Lorena Gonzalez, a labor leader and former state lawmaker.
It torched the front of the single-story home in City Heights, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. It also destroyed their American flag.
After firefighters extinguished the flames and investigators began working at the scene, a member of the San Diego Fire-Rescue crew approached Fletcher with a new flag in a package. He and Fletcher walked inside the property and removed a tattered and singed flag from a pole resting at the side of the home. Soon, the stars and stripes were back on display.
Fletcher later posted about the touching moment on Twitter, thanking the crews that “saved our home and then brought us a new flag which is proudly flying.” He also shared a photo, with the flag’s bright red, white and blue standing in contrast to the charred exterior of the home.
“This really means something to my family,” Fletcher wrote, tagging the San Diego city firefighters union. “Thank you.”
No one was hurt in the early morning blaze, but authorities are still trying to determine if it was set intentionally. A San Diego police lieutenant told reporters that there was no obvious build-up of materials outside the house that could have sparked an accidental fire, and he also mentioned the timing overnight as suspicious.
Fletcher and Gonzalez are each established forces in California politics, with Fletcher often serving as the face of San Diego County’s efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic. He was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the powerful board on Tuesday.
Gonzalez recently resigned from representing California’s 80th Assembly District for a leadership position with the California Labor Federation. Supporting unions was a key focus of her legislative career.
The emotional couple emerged from their home to speak to reporters later Wednesday morning.
“We joke, we’re going to start 2022, it’s going start off better than 2021 — but we’ll just say, tomorrow it’s going to start off better,” Fletcher said, smiling. “It’s going to be fine. We’re good, we’re healthy. Everyone’s safe. And the rest of it doesn’t really matter.”
The county leader also praised the first responders who came to their home.
“We had firefighters here, like, immediately. We had police officers, again literally as we’re going out one door, they’re kicking in another one, and we really appreciate and value them,” Fletcher said.