Crews knock down fire in riverbed in National City

Half acre burned near Westfield Plaza Bonita mall

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. - Fire investigators are trying to figure out what started a massive fire that tore through a homeless camp near the Westfield Plaza Bonita Mall in National City.

The fire was intense and lit up the early morning sky Sunday as it climbed through thick brush near Interstate 805 and state Route 54.

William Bunker, who has been staying in the homeless encampment, told 10News the flames grew quickly.

"Just like a torch … it was a 30-foot high tall torch. It was huge," he said.

Bunker grabbed his belongings and rushed to safety.

Chula Vista Battalion Chief David Acosta says the cause of the fire is still under investigation but they do get a lot of calls in the area because of illegal campfires and illegal warming fires.

"The density of the vegetation we have here, mixed in with homeless people and their belongings … that all adds to their fuel load," said Acosta.

The current drought was also a big challenge for fire crews. However, the fire caused few disruptions to traffic and was quickly put out before it could spread to the nearby mall and homes.

The fire comes after another one in December at the same location. It shut down lanes on I-805 and was also started at a homeless camp.

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