Illegally parked truck catches fire near La Jolla library

15 minutes after a 9-1-1 call, a fire crew arrived and extinguished the fire in a few minutes.
15 minutes after a 9-1-1 call, a fire crew arrived and extinguished the fire in a few minutes.

A recent fire near the La Jolla Riford Library has sparked some thought about public safety and adherence to parking rules.

On Thursday, March 19, Andrew Bojak was working from home, hosting a conference call from his condo on Eads Avenue, directly behind the library on Draper Avenue.

He told the Light he noticed a bit of smoke coming from Mabel Bell Lane, the alley that runs between Draper and Eads, 15 feet from his home office window.

“I thought someone was vaping,” he remembered, “and after seeing more and more smoke, I thought maybe someone was burning something, like tar to seal something, in the alley. A few minutes later, however, it became clear it was a fire.”

Bojak said he immediately abandoned his call and ran outdoors to see a truck parked next to his unit, flames in the truck’s cabin.

His yells for help went unnoticed, he said, and someone called 9-1-1 when the flames expanded and started burning his fence.

While awaiting the fire department, Bojak grabbed his garden hose and attempted to douse the flames as the truck’s owner ran to the truck and retrieved a small extinguisher.

The two men worked to put out the fire, which by that time, “caused a whirlwind with all the heat in the alley,” Bojak recalled. “Smoke was blowing into patio doors; the fire was pretty extensive.”

The fire grew rapidly and condo residents, who had gathered to watch the unfolding scene, he asked to evacuate.

“There was a butane tank in the back of the truck that fortunately did not explode,” Bojak said of the growing danger. “I kept hearing pops as glass shattered.”

Fifteen minutes after Bojak’s 9-1-1 call, a fire crew arrived and extinguished the fire within a few minutes.

“I couldn’t believe the crazy bravery,” Bojak stated. “A single firefighter walked within 10 feet of that fully engulfed truck as if there were no danger at all,” he continued, lamenting that he was never able to personally thank the firefighter once the danger had passed.

A representative from the San Diego Fire Department confirmed via the filed report that an “electrician’s work truck caught fire and burned,” and that “no buildings caught fire and no injuries were sustained.”

Minor damage to property aside, Bojak said it was very lucky he was working from home, when the fire started or the situation might have been much worse.

“There was no one around,” he stated. “There’s a bigger story here concerning public safety.”

He noted it is illegal to park in the Mabel Bell Lane alley, and “police have ticketed people for parking there before, but there are no signs posted. Some residences and businesses have no parking signs at their entrances, but the City needs to address this before a much bigger tragedy occurs.”

Bojak also noted the spot where the truck parked, blocked access to clearly-marked reserved library employee parking.

San Diego Police towed the burned truck away Sunday evening, March 22, but Bojak hopes this isn’t the end of the story, having submitted a request for action through the City’s Get It Done app.

“I want to prevent something similar, with worse results, from happening again,” Bojak said. “This could have happened anywhere.”