SAN DIEGO — San Diego Fire-Rescue Department crews rescued a man from a burning car fire Wednesday.
San Diego police said officers responded to a report of a vehicle collision with a house or fence in the 10500 block of Gabacho Drive in the Tierrasanta neighborhood. The collision resulted in a fire.
The fire damaged a fence between houses. The house where the car was in the driveway was unoccupied at the time.
The work of two neighbors who jumped into action arguably made a significant impact.
“There was no time to think, just instinct,” said Scott Dickerson, who was nearby when the fire erupted.
The car fire had Dickerson and another neighbor, Anthony Mattioni, grabbing garden hoses to fight the fire. However, once they heard someone might be trapped inside, “instead of waiting around to find out, I took a fire extinguisher, I broke all the door windows,” said Mattioni, a Marine Corps veteran who lives in the neighborhood.
Dickerson and Mattioni said they saw the fire creeping toward the man’s feet. That’s when Dickerson dowsed the car with more water to push the fire back, while Mattioni tried to open any door.
“I open the door behind him and start shaking him violently, no response but I could tell he was alive by the way he was moving. So we continued to go to work,” Mattioni said.
“Any efforts that we get from civilians that are able to jump in and make heroic acts, of course they are doing the best they can to be able to help out, so I’m sure it helped out as much as possible,” said Matt Moe, battalion chief with SDFD.
The fire department was already in route. One of their helicopters leaving another call called in the fire. With the tight space, crews had to rip off the roof of the car to get the man out.
The man had been trapped inside the car for more than 30 minutes and sustained burn injuries, according to Moe.
Moe said the man was taken to the hospital.
He said it is unclear how the fire started or if it crashed into something.
“It’s hard to say there is some front-end damage to the vehicle, but due to the extent of the fire it is hard to say where it started and what exactly happened,” Moe said.
Traffic investigators were on scene collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and attempting to locate any video footage.
It was the right place at the right time for the neighbors, who said they felt called upon.
“Absolutely for this man’s life, yes absolutely. Without a doubt,” Mattioni said.
“Neither him nor I ever want to say we saved anything, but the saving grace for us is to see the injuries he sustained. We knew in our minds it would’ve been ten times worse, or fatal. Knowing what we just did what we did, it was all worth it, met a new friend,” Dickerson said.
Moe said the incident did not involve hitting a gas line, which they initially thought sparked the blaze.