PASO ROBLES, Calif. – Four homes were destroyed and three others were partially or minorly damaged during a fire that broke out at an apartment complex in Paso Robles on Wednesday morning.
The fire started around 10:50 a.m. at the Hilltop Estates, which is located on the 100 block of Olive Street. The fire spread to a quarter acre in nearby vegetation.
"I was trying to enjoy a day off from work in my living room, just watching TV, and I heard a lot of commotion and some loud bangs and some loud pops," said Adam Lemon, who lives in the building. "I looked out my window and I saw a bunch of people just fleeing out of the building, out of the unit next to me."
Adam said he quickly flung open his front door and saw huge flames covering the building.
"I just grabbed my bag with my keys and my wallet and my cellphone and I didn't even have time to close the door," said Lemon. "It was close enough so that when I opened the door, I could feel the intense heat from the flames. I was a very surreal experience because I've haven't experienced an emergency like that before."
The flames were so large and intense, they quickly spread beyond the two-story structure.
"Once a couple of apartments got fully involved, it then threw a spot fire into an adjacent vegetation, so we had a vegetation response as well," said Paso Robles Fire Department battalion chief Jay Enns.
Within a few minutes, a massive emergency response descended onto the scene, with several agencies from around the North County providing mutual aid.
"We quickly tapped out the majority of the resources within the North County, just due to the number of apartments involved and with the addition of the vegetation fire," said Enns.
Enns added more than 50 firefighters from several regional departments, as well as other first responders helped provide assistance to the incident.
He also said there were no injuries to any of the residents.
"That's exactly what we hope for," said Enns. "The primary searches showed there were no occupants. We're doing our due diligence just because the amount of damage to go through, and with secondary searches to make sure we didn't miss anything. We did recover one reptile that's a pet of one of the owners here and we were able to return it to him."
Enns added no firefighters were injured as well, and were cycled in and out of action due to the extreme heat since temperatures hovered around 100 degrees.
The cause of the fire is currently unknown. An investigation is now underway, which Enns said could take some time to determine what might have started the fire.