Thanks to a Good Samaritan and other quick-thinking nearby neighbors, residents of a Menifee senior condominium complex were alerted and brought to safety
Christina Holland, who doesn't live in the neighborhood, was at a bank across the street when she heard an explosion, followed by flames engulfing one of the condos in the 28200 block of Winged Foot Drive, she told Patch.
"I immediately called 911 and ran across the street to see if I could help people get out," Holland said. "I was the first one on the scene and after the explosions, you could hear the windows burst out and flames could be seen from the bank.
"I began knocking on doors and screaming, 'Fire, fire, get out!' No one was on the scene yet and a couple of other neighbors helped me knock on doors to alert people...I just prayed everyone would get out alive. It was terrible."
Later, fire sirens roared as neighbors ran down the street to check on friends and animals in the condos. While the fire was contained within the hour, three condos burnt to the ground. One resident lost her home, truck and two cats in the blaze.
Suzie Murray said she arrived home after being out for dinner to find her complex on fire and the street blocked off.
"I thought it was my house on fire and I was so worried about my little dog. The four units directly across from me were on fire and my neighbor was outside with a sheet wrapped around but at least she was safe," Murray said.
Shella Care, a home for disabled people at which Murray works, expressed a desire to help her and the other fire victims, she told Patch.
An additional four residences sustained exposure damage in the two-alarm fire that was called in at about 8:30 p.m. and contained by 9:07 p.m., according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department Spokesperson Melody Hendrickson.
She explained that a two-alarm fire is a situation that requires a dispatching of double the fire and emergency vehicles and firefighters to respond.
"We are contracted with neighboring communities in Riverside County to respond," Hendrickson said.
Neighboring crews from Murrieta and Temecula fire departments were among those who arrived to offer assistance.
"Two vehicles were destroyed, two were damaged and two were saved. Six residents were displaced—one adult male and one adult female were assisted by American Red Cross. The remaining four denied assistance," Hendrickson wrote in a report.
The fire resulted in an estimated $750,000 in property loss, Hendrickson reported. Approximately $600,000 in property was saved.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation Tuesday.
Matters such as this could take one day or up to several years to determine, Hendrickson said, assuring the public would be updated when a cause was identified.
After the fire was contained, smoke continued to barrel into the sky creating an unsafe breathing environment. Sheriff deputies dispersed concerned neighbors and onlookers to return to their homes and close them up to keep from getting further smoke inhalation.
Road closures remained in effect well after midnight.
Current landlords and tenants were told by officials from Harbro, a company contracted to secure the fire scene, that it could take up to six months or more to rebuild—longer if asbestos was found in the ruins and it was then turned over to hazardous waste for removal.
The Menifee senior community is part of more than 4,000 homes built by Del Webb in 1964 in a popular section known as the Core. The fire occurred directly across the street from the main Core offices and facilities including a golf course.
No one was injured in the blaze, Hendrickson reported.