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By Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson and Miriam Raftery

April 10, 2018 (Santee) – A fire has scorched multiple apartments at Santee Villas in the 10400 block of Mast Boulevard across the street from Santana High School tonight, where a passerby told East County Magazine details of efforts to save residents and pets from the flames.

“I was riding down Mast Boulevard when I noticed black smoke coming from an apartment complex,” says Robert Johnson, a Santee resident.  “I chucked my backpack and bike,” he says, adding that he followed the lead of others trying to assist. He says  he “started busting windows and helping people out where I could.”

Santee Fire Department crews arrived to find heavy flames and smoke pouring out of the building , where the fire began 6:45 p.m.  Johnson says firefighters congratulated civilians for their efforts, cleared the scene and worked to battle the blaze. Crews from Heartland and Lakeside Fire assisted in fighting the fire.

Johnson says, “I saw one man come out with black smoke all over his face. A golden retriever came out. A little dog with hair burned off came out next,” he said, adding that the small dog may have perished. “We were a temporary team of firefighters.”

At least 15 families with 40 people have been displaced, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. One dog died, another was rescued and a third remains missing, Santee Division Chief John Garlo said, adding that two units were destroyed and two more damaged.   

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Could happen to anyone.