Firefighters were called to the Thornhill Apartments at 1680 Thornhill Drive around 2:30 a.m. When they arrived they found a 20 unit apartment building going up in flames.
Jeffrey Allen, a local Uber driver, saw the flames while driving on I-215. He drove straight to the apartment complex only to realize firefighters had yet to arrive. Allen began beating on doors and rousing residents as flames shot 30 feet from the roof of the building. He said he awakened many residents from a sound sleep.
Unified Fire Department Assistant Chief Stephen Higgs said the fire appeared to start in the middle of the building and burn undetected in a shared roofing area. He said it was a matter of sheer luck that no one was injured in a fire that size, especially when so many people were sleeping.
Unified Fire Authority spokesman David Ulibarri said Friday the estimated damage to the building is nearly $1.5 million and it is a total loss. “The entire top units were destroyed by the fire and the bottom units are taking the brunt of the water and smoke damage,” said Ulibarri. “All of the residents were evacuated by the time our crews arrived and thankfully the Uber driver and one of the other residents who was the first to notice the fire, everyone was safe and there were no injuries.”
Ulibarri also stressed that because the roof of the bottom units are very unstable, they are not allowing anyone near the complex for quite some time. “Anyone who lived there will be allowed to attempt to salvage their belongings but not right now.”
The Red Cross was on scene and spent all day Friday helping the nearly 50 residents find a place to stay. At one point, nearly 100 people from the building that was destroyed and surrounding homes were evacuated, anyone close enough to be in the path of the fire.