1 person dead in Chula Vista apartment fire: Fire crews investigating cause of blaze

2 taken to hospital with burn injuries

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A South Bay apartment fire killed a woman, left four other people injured and displaced several families Wednesday.

The blaze erupted for unknown reasons shortly before 10 a.m. in a ground-floor unit at the Royal Apartments in the 500 block of Park Way in Chula Vista, according to fire officials.

Hector Castro saw the smoke from his balcony. He set down the guitar he had been strumming and ran downstairs to help. 

"I opened the door when I saw the smoke," Castro said. "I ran in and I woke the old man up and I tugged at him to get out and I ran out and he followed me out."

The man then tried in vain to extinguish the flames along with his son, with both suffering minor burns in the process, Deputy Fire Chief Justin Gipson said.

Neighbor Eric Welsh told 10News, "They were sitting down together … just complete and utter shock at what was going on and the only thing coming out of their mouth … the older man was saying, 'My wife's inside,' and the young adult was in complete shock, not saying a word. They were later taken to a hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation."

A third victim, a woman, was still inside.

Welsh, Castro and another neighbor, Jeff Moser, ran back toward the burning apartment.

"Careful, guys, careful!" could be heard on cellphone video obtained by 10News from Alejandro Marin, another neighbor in the complex.

"Tried to get back in there with fire extinguishers but the flames were too hot," Castro said.

"We were trying to get the fire, 'cause the fire started small and it got huge really fast," said Moser. "Within 10 minutes, it was fully engulfed, so it was pretty scary."

Welsh said, "We got as close as we could to the door front and initially, the blaze was probably coming from the couch. It was just so hot by the door front and because of the size of the CO2 bottles, it wouldn't extinguish enough to even get in."

The woman, who is believed to be the older man's wife, was unable to get out and died in a back room. Her name was not immediately available.

Medics took the father and son to UCSD Medical Center in San Diego. Castro and Moser both suffered minor injuries.       

Police and firefighters evacuated half of the 12 units at the two-story complex while engine crews subdued the blaze, which took about seven minutes, according to Gipson. Fire, smoke and water damage left four of the apartments uninhabitable pending repairs, he said.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation as crews continued dousing hot spots into the afternoon.

"We anticipate being here all day," Gipson said.