Reports of fire, explosions, rock Hemet neighborhood, as man inside home refuses to exit

HEMET — A man was reportedly taken into protective custody and held for a mental health evaluation, Thursday night, May 10, after refusing to exit a Hemet home where a loud fight was reported and a fire erupted, destroying a vehicle.

In addition to the argument and raging vehicle fire, residents of the small neighborhood and other 911 callers reported hearing several explosions from the backyard of the corner property, located just south of W. Devonshire Avenue, between N. Sanderson Avenue and Kirby Street.

When officials arrived they found a small, off-road utility vehicle engulfed in flames. Eye News Media photo

City of Hemet Police and Fire personnel along with other emergency first responders were dispatched to a home at the northeast corner of Carl Drive and Carl Way about 9:30 p.m., after 911 callers reported a vehicle fire inside the home’s backyard.

Callers also advised the fire was beginning to spread to nearby vegetation and other items in the backyard, as well as possibly endangering the home and several nearby parked vehicles.

As rescue personnel were heading to the scene, witnesses reported hearing a loud argument or physical confrontation between a man and woman at the home just before the fire erupted.

At least one 911 caller also reported a man inside the home owned numerous weapons and ammunition. According to the caller, in spite of the raging fire and imminent threat to the structure and vehicles parked in the home’s driveway, the man was refusing to come out of the home.

When fire officials arrived at the scene they discovered a “fully involved vehicle fire” that was spreading and threatening the home and nearby vehicles, Hemet Fire Battalion Chief Gregg Lloyd explained from the scene.

As firefighters were setting up to begin battling the blaze, numerous police officers began converging on the scene to deal with the man refusing to exit the home and provide protection for fire officials and others at the scene.

Firefighters’ initial efforts to extinguish the blaze were slowed when they were unable to gain access to the backyard where the fire was raging due to a locked fence. Firefighters were forced to knock down a section of wooden fencing along the west side of the property so they could begin battling the fire.

Firefighters gained access to the fire after knocking down a section of fencing along the west side of the property along Carl Way. Eye News Media photo

Despite the potential danger regarding the weapons and ammunition reportedly inside the home as well as the man’s refusal to come out, firefighters worked to contain the blaze and protect the home and other vehicles as well as nearby properties.

While firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire, officers at the scene attempted to contact and communicate with the man inside the home. Despite officers’ efforts to convince the subject inside the home to come out, he refused to exit the residence.

The fire activity and heavy police presence brought numerous area residents, curious to get a closer look at the roaring fire, as well as firefighters’ efforts, and the officers’ subsequent investigation.

Despite the potential danger presented by the reportedly armed and uncooperative man, officials remained focused and continued their jobs and about a dozen firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze within 5 to 10 minutes, according to witnesses and Lloyd.

Once the fire was extinguished, all that remained of the burned and destroyed vehicle was the metal frame of an off-road, recreation/utility-type vehicle. Other various items near and around the small vehicle appeared to have been damaged or destroyed by the intense fire.

With the fire extinguished, several officers eventually entered a rear door of the home with their guns drawn, while calling out to the man.

A handcuffed man is lead from a property where a vehicle fire, multiple explosions, and argument happened. Eye News Media photo

Official radio traffic at the time indicated officers quickly located and detained the previously uncooperative subject without incident. He was later described by witnesses as an older, bearded, white, male wearing a white T-shirt.

The subject, who has not been publicly identified and did not appear injured in any way, was eventually led from the back door of the home in handcuffs. Officers then escorted him through the backyard, past the destroyed and still smoking vehicle, and to a waiting patrol vehicle.

A woman who reportedly lived at the home was later seen being interviewed by fire and police officials. Witnesses reported the unidentified woman appeared shaken and emotional, but uninjured.

After an initial medical evaluation, the man was transported to an area hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Multiple witnesses interviewed at the scene reported hearing at least one or more loud “pops” or “explosions,” which one official said was believed to have been caused by propane and fuel canisters or aerosol paint cans in the backyard of the home.

One witness interviewed live at the scene by Hemet Eye News reported seeing sparks before the fire erupted, possibly from a welding machine or metal grinder.

Little more than a bare metal frame remained of an off-road type utility vehicle after it was destroyed by fire. Eye News Media photo

Other witnesses described trying to bang on the front door and windows of the home where the vehicle was burning and reported that despite having just heard the couple involved in a loud argument, no one answered the door of the home.

Describing the first explosion that rocked the neighborhood, one witness told Hemet Eye News community reporters, “It was just like, KABOOM!”

Another witness animatedly described the explosions and fire saying, “It was just like BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!”

None of those interviewed at the scene agreed to provide their names.

Lloyd later explained the cause of the fire is still under investigation and Hemet PD has not released any information regarding the incident or the man who was detained and later hospitalized.

There were no citizens or officials reportedly injured during the incident.

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Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.

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