San Diego Fire Destroys Housing Structure, Damages Estimated at $50M

August 12, 2003

A fire earlier this month that gutted a 206-unit condo project under way in the San Diego community of University City is being blamed on a radical environmental group that is reported to have damaged resorts and homes in other parts of the country.

The group, Earth Liberation Front or “ELF”, is reported to have left a message behind at the scene that took credit for the blaze. While damages are expected to hit $50 million, including a $7 million crane, no injuries were reported in the pre-dawn fire.

According to Leslie Halik, public information officer for the San Diego Fire Department, “By the time the crews got there and we got our first call which was around 3:03 (a.m.), it was actually well engulfed. We didn’t put water on the fire, what we did was redirect our efforts to the structures around it. The fire was so intense that it melted the plastic shutters, blinds and some of the plastic furniture that was close to the windows from the radiant heat.”

Halik noted that the Department has pretty much finished its investigation into the blaze. “We have worked with the owner of the building and between the two, determined what was in there and what burned.”

Halik added that three company workers were on site at the time of the fire, but “It doesn’t sound like to me from talking to our arson investigator that they were in charge of security, they were just there. They were the people that first started rousing nearby people and trying to evacuate and alert people to the fire.”

San Diego Councilman Scott Peters reacted to the fire, noting that, “This is an outrage. Some people are calling this eco-terrorism. I call it terrorism plain and simple. When a group puts people’s lives and property in jeopardy they are not activists they are criminals. The people behind this despicable act will be found and held accountable.”

A representative for the project developer, Garden Communities, offered a “no comment,” when contacted by Insurance Journal, and would not identify the insurance company for the site.

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