EL CAJON, Calif. — Authorities say a woman is suspected of intentionally starting a fire that quickly spread through her El Cajon apartment building, trapping others inside, after some kind of fight with a roommate.
The 26-year-old woman, who was not immediately identified, was arrested on suspicion of arson and may face further charges, according to El Cajon Police Department.
The blaze broke out some time after 7 a.m. at the building on Chatham Street near Fletcher Parkway. Investigators said they were still working through details of exactly what led up to the suspected arson, but that two roommates got in an argument and the blaze was started after one of the two left home.
Flames quickly spread from the first unit to others, engulfing portions of the building, and firefighters had to rescue two people who were trapped inside.
A resident named Anthony told OnScene.TV that he initially heard “what sounded like a little bit of a fight going on downstairs, a couple things were getting slammed around.”
Then “I started noticing things were getting thrown out of the windows, breaking the windows … As soon as I saw the smoke coming out, I knew we had to go,” he continued.
Anthony said he and his roommate’s girlfriend had to break out a third-floor window to get out onto an awning and wait for rescue by firefighters. Flames had blocked the pair’s route out the front and down the stairs.
“We had to just stand on the awning,” he told OnScene.TV. “It’s a big drop, so we didn’t want to take the jump. Pretty much just waited on (firefighters) and they got there with the quick response. They got up that ladder, they extended it all the way up and we slid right down.”
Anthony said both he and the woman suffered minor cuts from breaking the window, but that they were doing OK. Officials confirmed there were no other significant injuries.
In the end, at least three of the units were completely destroyed by a combination of fire, smoke or water damage, a Heartland Fire Department spokesperson said. At least five people were left without a home.
Beyond the building, crews could be seen putting out a burning vehicle in the parking lot and some patio furniture.
The Sheriff’s Department Bomb/Arson Unit is leading the investigation going forward.