15 displaced, firefighter hospitalized, after blaze destroys Hemet apartment complex

HEMET — Authorities say ten children and five adults were displaced after a blaze tore through a Hemet apartment complex earlier today, Sunday, Sept.1. Although several animals were rescued from the intense fire, at least two cats are reportedly still missing and have not been located.

The only reported injury from the destructive blaze, which erupted at a complex on the 800 block of Douglas Ct., between Johnston and W. Whittier avenues, was a firefighter who had reportedly been training just prior to the call. He was transported to Hemet Valley Hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion, according to officials at the scene.

Today’s destructive blaze was the second apartment complex fire to hit the San Jacinto valley this week, after a San Jacinto fire destroyed another complex, displacing 10 residents and their pets last Thursday, Aug. 28.

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City of Hemet firefighters and police officers were dispatched to the blaze around 12:30 p.m., after receiving multiple reports of a large and growing fire at the apartment complex.

When officials arrived they reported finding a two-story complex fully engulfed in flames, with thick, black smoke billowing high into the air. Firefighters also reported that the blaze had begun to spread to nearby palm trees and other vegetation and that the fire was threatening other structures.

Firefighters prepare to begin battling a blaze that destroyed a Hemet apartment complex this afternoon. The fire displaced fifteen people, including ten children. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

Based on the severity of the fire and immediate threat to other nearby apartment complexes and residents, officials at the scene requested additional support; at which time all five of the City’s engine companies, along with Cal Fire and Soboba Fire department were dispatched to the scene to assist.

In total, nearly 40 firefighters from five City and three County engine companies, along with a truck company, a paramedic squad, a Breathing Support Unit and multiple battalion commanders and fire chiefs, responded to the blaze.

After confirming all the residents had made it out of their apartments, firefighters began an aggressive attack on the blaze.

As firefighters battled the blaze from the ground, from on the roof, and from high atop the ladder truck, the fire began to rip through the complex roof, at which time firefighters had to evacuate from atop the building.

Although all the occupants were able to safely get out their apartments, two cats and two dogs were initially reported missing. The two dogs were eventually rescued from the burning building; however, as of this report, the two cats were still missing and unaccounted for. The two rescued dogs were assessed by AMR for injuries and later returned to their grateful owners.

Although two dogs were rescued from today’s blaze, two cats remain missing and unaccounted for. Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents photo

Firefighters eventually brought the blaze under control, but the complex and all the resident’s belongings were destroyed by the fire and considered a total loss.

American Red Cross officials were summoned to the scene to assist the displaced families and a bus was brought to the location to ferry the families to a temporary shelter.

Based on the severity of the blaze and the number of people displaced, Red Cross officials made an immediate, on-scene donation of $3,000 to the affected families, who reportedly lost everything but what they were wearing when they fled in terror from their burning apartments.

SEE RELATED: 10 displaced after fire rips through San Jacinto apartment complex

Community reporters Gary Rainywater from Facebook’s Hemet Valley Incidents and Robert Carter from Public Safety Incidents later reported they were first to arrive at the scene of the blaze, arriving several minutes before firefighters.

According to witnesses, rather than film the scene of the devastating fire, the two reporters sprung into action. The pair were seen grabbing garden hoses and using them to try to douse the growing flames as they spread from the apartment into the side and back yards of the property and began threatening other nearby apartment complexes.

Once firefighters arrived at the scene, Rainwater and Carter resumed filming and documenting the blaze. Theirs and other photos and videos can be seen here.

As of this report, firefighters remain at the scene of the blaze conducting extensive overhaul and mop-up operations and are continuing to look for hot spots and extinguish other small vegetation fires as they pop up.

It is unknown how the fire started at this time, and the cause of today’s blaze is still under investigation.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


Click here to view more than 100 photos from today’s fire

Robert Carter/Public Safety Incidents video

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 48, moved last year to the Intermountain area of 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 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 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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