Two people were injured after a fire ignited in the attic of a Palm Desert apartment Wednesday morning.
“My housekeeper shouted ‘Fire Fire!’ I said, ‘Break the glass! Extinguisher extinguisher,” said Jaqueline Lau, who lives next door to the unit that caught fire.
She had just returned from a trip to the grocery store when she saw the smoke and flames.
“The flames were all over his patio, coming towards my patio and then you heard the ‘pop pop pop,'” Lau said.
Firefighters were called to the Las Serenas Apartments just before 10 a.m. located at 73315 Country Club Dr. When they arrived they found the unit’s water heater completely engulfed, the flames quickly spreading to the attic.
“It appears the fire started with an explosion in the water heater cabinet that may have been full of material that was being used as storage,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Rick Greggs.
Neighbors say they’re not surprised about how the fire started and believe it could’ve been prevented.
“He’s had junk on his patio weeks,” Lau said, “He takes things away somewhere and then he brings a whole lot of stuff. They tell him to get rid of it, so then for a few weeks it’s clear and nice and then it’s piled high again,” she said.
One person was treated for a minor burn and another sustained minor smoke inhalation. Both were taken to the hospital.
Robyn Paris she saw when the flames began surrounding the homeowner.
“I was trying to tell him to get out, jump over the fence, jump over the fence. So he did and he stood right there in the corner and his wife was still in the house I guess couldn’t get out,” she said.
There are six units in the complex and residents were evacuated while firefighters attacked the blaze. We’re told 7 people living in apartments near the unit that caught fire will have to spend a day or two out of their homes, until it’s clear for them to return.
Lau says she feels lucky her home was spared serious damage.
“Because I don’t have much, but what I have is mine. My oxygen and my little apartment, their mine. I’ve been here 20 years,” she said.
Fire officials say it just serves as a reminder to keep areas in your home, especially near a water heater, clear.
“Remember that’s a heat source with an open flame, there’s gas lines running in and out of there that can cause significant issues such as this,” Chief Greggs said.
“I’m just glad it didn’t take the whole building,” Lau said.
There’s no word on the extent of the damage and the cause of the fire is under investigation.