Crews knock down fire at Hotel Heritage: Some forced to jump out of three-story bldg in East Village

Fire causes $1M in damages

SAN DIEGO - Seven people were injured early Monday while escaping a burning East Village residential hotel, in several cases getting out by leaping from a second-floor window.

The blaze at Hotel Heritage in the 500 block of Ninth Avenue erupted about 2:45 a.m., according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. It took crews about 20 minutes to subdue the flames, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque said.

Medics took the injured -- including three who jumped out an upstairs window to get away from the fire and smoke -- to UCSD Medical Center and Scripps Mercy Hospital with smoke inhalation and leg injuries. One was admitted in serious condition, and the others were treated for minor to moderate trauma, Luque said.

Investigators determined that the blaze started in a second-floor room and was accidental in origin, though the precise cause remained unknown in the late afternoon.

One man said he opened the door to the hallway and discovered it was filled with thick black smoke. He said had to use his hands to find the stairway.

Another man, who may have suffered a sprained ankle, said he jumped out of a window.

"There was a fire by my door so I had to jump out of the window, it was like 'Backdraft,' just like the movies …  it was just real big, I opened the door and boom right in my face, so I ran for it, went to the window and jumped," he said.

10News saw Jovan Jones standing outside the building with a blanket wrapped around him and tears streaming down his cheeks because of the smoke. Later in the morning, Jones was at the Red Cross center at San Diego City College, wrapped in the same blanket.

"It was totally black and the smoke was thick and I couldn't see at all and I just kept putting my hands on and gliding it down the side of the wall until I could find the stairways in the dark," said Jones, who lived in Heritage Hotel for two years.

"People were screaming that there was a fire and I smelled smoke," Jones added.

"Hearing someone impact on my skylight was pretty frightening," said resident Tessa Sadler. "I heard screaming, and I just thought it was someone drunk or something at first, until I heard someone crash on my skylight because I live on the first floor."

Sadler, who has been staying on the first floor the past month, made it out on her own.

"I went outside and there was just columns of black smoke coming out from the second floor," she said.

Jones was trying to stay positive about what officials believe was an accident.

"It will be a loss," Jones said. "I'm going to have to realize that I have to start all over today."

"That was one of the only hotels -- residential extended stay hotels -- that will let us stay there because our credit isn't so stellar," Sadler said.

The monetary losses were set at $1 million to the structure and $350,000 to contents. Damage to the three-story building was extensive enough that it might wind up deemed a total loss, according to Luque.

The American Red Cross was called in to help 14 residents secure emergency lodging. Other displaced tenants were able to make their own housing arrangements, the spokesman said.

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