On Scene: Carlsbad Condo Fire

Rachael raced home on Highway 78 to rescue her dog Travis and bunny Babs
  • Rachael raced home on Highway 78 to rescue her dog Travis and bunny Babs

On October 24 around 4:00 p.m., a woman name Marsha heard a loud explosion near her second-floor condo in the 2300 block of Hosp Way, in Carlsbad's Grove condominiums. She went outside and saw black smoke spewing from the roof. A worker on the roof was yelling for everyone to get out. She called 911, knocked on neighbors' doors, and then left the building. By that time, fire could be seen coming through the roof on the southeast corner of the three-story complex.

Oceanside Fire Department, the closest units available, responded within two minutes. The fire soon became a three-alarm fire, with multiple units arriving from Carlsbad, Vista, and Rancho Santa Fe. It took firemen — fighting on both Hosp Way and the building’s face on El Camino Real — one hour and 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which spread underneath the common roof line.

Police went door to door to each of the six condos, on all three floors (18 total) to make sure no one was inside. Marcus and his girlfriend had just left to walk their dog. They returned when they saw the fire trucks flying by. They didn't know the condition of their unit, which was next to the one emitting most smoke.

Did roofers inadvertently start the fire? An investigation is under way.

Did roofers inadvertently start the fire? An investigation is under way.

Eric was on his couch, watching TV, in his third-floor condo. He said he smelled smoke and then went out on his patio that overlooks El Camino Real. Then he saw flames and immediately left with his dog. His unit was damaged the most, as firemen doused water on the roof above and through the broken windows of the unit. He was calmed when an officer told him the Red Cross was on their way to offer him a place to stay and some assistance.

Rachael was still in her classroom as a teacher in a San Marcos school when she got a call from her landlord, telling her her home was on fire. She said she drove 90 mph on Highway 78 to rescue her dog Travis and bunny Babs. The fire department would not let her inside but assured her that her bottom-floor unit probably only had water damage. A fireman went inside around 5:30 and brought out the wet but happy animals.

Carlsbad spokesperson Kristina Ray said three units were uninhabitable and most will have some sort of smoke or water damage.

I asked numerous other residents from the surrounding buildings what they thought happened. Each one blamed the roofers that had been replacing the roof tiles on the entire complex over the past six weeks. Several small sections of the affected building’s roof were open, waiting for stacks of tiles, piled on the roof, to be installed. Several residents said they saw workers earlier using a torch and hot tar, apparently sealing the newly installed tile.

A trash-hauling trailer, used by the company for the old tiles, was parked in a spot in front of the burned complex, directly below the repaired sections. It did not have any company identification on it. During the firefighting efforts, no roof workers remained on site. Carlsbad police said no workers were detained but that an investigation had begun.

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