Fire spreads from homeless camp to 3 elementary school classrooms


SAN DIEGO — Firefighters battled flames at an elementary school late Thursday, resulting in damage to three classrooms.

San Diego Fire Rescue was called just before 11:15 p.m. to Paradise Hills Elementary School at 5816 Alleghany Street, where firefighters found flames reaching 20 feet into the air. Firefighters with National City also responded and helped get the fire out within 11 minutes, SDFD dispatch records show.

San Diego Unified School District staff was on site surveying up to $95,000 in damage to three classrooms and making arrangements so that students wouldn’t be affected, a battalion chief said.

SDFD said the fire started at a homeless camp then spread to the school. Although no injuries were reported, Battalion Chief Chris Babler warned with the cold season upon us, fires started by people trying to stay warm may be more common.

“There’s going to be warming fires and cooking fires as the weather gets colder,” he said. “Our expectations are they’re going to try and keep themselves warm. Those fires could get out of control, so we’re going to get there as quickly as we can and mitigate those fires.”

Gino Regino, a nearby resident and parent of a child at the elementary school, said he’s not surprised the fire happened. He said one man in the small homeless camp had been living there for around a year and neighbors have been concerned. 

“We would take the examples of the fires happening on the freeways and stuff in the brush, in the small brush and stuff, and we’re like, ‘What’s the difference, it could happen here,’ and it did,” Regino said.

Regino added he doesn’t believe the classrooms scorched are currently being used for teaching. 

“No, the students don’t really use these, they use them more for storage,” he said. 

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