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Eyewitnesses share what they saw during Cactus Fire

Posted at 6:46 AM, Oct 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-17 09:46:15-04

(KGTV) — In Otay Mesa Saturday, the Cactus Fire caused 20 residents to evacuate. Crews in the late afternoon mopped up the area. They are still trying to determine what the cause of the fire is.

The Cactus fire happened off Cactus Road and Airway Road around noon on Saturday. It occurred in a wrecking yard that is home to two businesses, a vehicle storage company and an auto repair facility. The loss, as told by SDFD was pretty significant as various vehicles, ranging from cars to forklifts were destroyed.

In Spanish, Leonardo Winces told 10News that he and his son were moving a platform with car parts on it when his son saw the fire. That's when Leonardo got off the cart, ran to the site, and saw that the fire was already growing 3 meters from where he was.

He told 10News reporter that a nearby water source had run dry, and a fire extinguisher was no match.

Deputy Fire Chief, David Gerboth, with San Diego Fire Department, agreed that was an issue.

“Our efforts were hampered by the water supply," shared Deputy Fire Chief Gerboth. "We do not have a good hydrating system down in this area so we started calling additional resources.”

A total of 150 firefighters were able to salvage 4 nearby homes. Only one of the homes had exterior damage, but no damage to the interior or personal items.

SDFD also called in additional strike teams and air support.

“The fire itself was of significant intensity," Gerboth said. "The water supply was definitely an issue, and then the wind that materialized about 30 minutes into the fire really contributed to making it an intense fire.”

SDFD shared the cause of the fire is still being investigated. But they have seen fires in that area in the last couple of days.

“Explosions and a lot of fire," shared Jennifer Rios. "It's just crazy.”

Rios knew the owner of the auto repair shop. “It’s really sad what he is going through," she explained. "And I mean it’s just scary, everything was in fire and explosions.”

This 3rd alarm fire destroyed roughly 200 vehicles. Leonardo told 10News in Spanish that he is just grateful. He said that while things were lost, they can also be brought back. The important thing was that he, his son, and others were safe.

SDFD says that they will be working into the night and Sunday morning. The department has a hazmat crew on-site as well as the mop-up team, to make sure all of the fire is put out.