Someone’s house is burning

by on March 27, 2009 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach

Abbott Street house destroyed by fire. All photos by Dave Gilbert.

Is it me, or does it seem like that lately there are more and more sirens going on at all hours of the day & night? Last Sunday morning (3-22-09) around 5 a.m. I was awakened by the siren of a fire-truck racing down my street. My first thought was, really? There’s that much of an emergency that all of northern OB needs to wake up at 5 in the morning? I rolled over and went back to sleep.

I woke up 3 hours later to a local news station saying that a house in OB had been completely destroyed by fire. I thought to myself, how awful to lose your house and I hoped that nobody had been hurt…and then all of a sudden I felt rather petty about feeling inconvenienced by the siren jolting me from my slumber earlier. I have to learn to start taking one for the team.

Two days later I was walking down the 2000 block of Abbott St. between Cape May & Saratoga and I saw first hand the devastation on the west side of the street and was really blown away. I’ve been walking past this little cottage for years. I’ve always noticed that it had some of the coolest cactus plants outside of it, but that now it’s all been completely destroyed.

What’s worse is, it looks like it was arson.

Just about everything these folks owned was destroyed. The looks of devastation on their faces as they tried to salvage and pack up the remains of their burnt and blackened belongings made me and the others I talked to about it, well up.

I didn’t want to bother them so I didn’t talk to the family right then but rather went back later. When I returned I didn’t see them around so I talked to their neighbor who asked to remain anonymous but who is a longtime OB resident.

I was told that at least 5 neighbors had called 911 before the blaze had gotten out of hand that morning and that ALL of their calls had been put on hold while they were forced to listen to a pre-recorded message that played on for minutes.

I was told that there was also a lot of fighting going on early that morning on that block and that the house just a mere 2 doors south, the same one that Pete Mahone had been arrested at 35 years earlier  had it’s gate smashed down. Apparently this little section of Abbott has had quite a few stories involving the Police over the years as well, and it was lovingly referred to as a “red light district” by this resident.

There’s a story written on a piece of plywood on the front of the house where the front window used to be. It tells of an earlier nearby party and then of a fight that happened outside of this little charred dwelling that was once a family’s happy home. Perhaps a street person  was involved and may have even started the blaze.

Luckily, the family with their 2 children, were not home at the time. Otherwise we might be talking about murder on top of arson because I was told that the 2 kids slept in the front of the house where it looks as if the fire was started.

It’s believed that someone lit the trash inside the trashcan on fire sometime after 4 a.m. and that the trashcan had been placed right outside against the front corner of the house.

I don’t know if the family wrote the message on the outside of their home or not, but I do know that we can show them that OB IS still OB and that we do look after, and take care of our own.

Any information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for this horrible and cowardly act is not only welcomed but needed. It looks like there may be a reward involved too. If anybody out there knows anything about who is to blame and can help bring closure to this family, please call the Western Division of SDPD at 619-692-4800 and let them know what you know.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

mr fresh March 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

this is what i call community reporting! let us know if there are any new developments.


OB Joe March 27, 2009 at 10:58 am

Yeah, this house had a great zero-water scape, plus it’s just down a couple of houses from where some friends live.


Dave Gilbert March 27, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Thanks Mr Fresh! It’s my hope that someone will step up, do the right thing and turn in whoever started the fire.

OB Joe is right too, but now that garden is filled with melted memories.


Lisa March 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Nice work, Dave!


ronshredvegas March 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm

sorry to hear about the fire nice reporting dave just like they taught in journalism class, i like reading or listening to anything you do keep up the good work dave……………rock on


Grateful Dan March 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Great job Dave. I hope someone in OB knows and fingers whoever started this fire.


La Jolla Kid March 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Great job, big Dave!!! Destruction of property is never a good thing, as we’ve all witnessed with the devastating fires of 2003 and 2007. The bright side can come forth if the house was properly insured. It could very well be a brand new start for someone with a positive attitude. And isn’t that what we all need?


Geniezuc March 27, 2009 at 11:39 pm

How sad. I once had a house burn down, and lost everything I had, which wasn’t much, but it was all I had. You keep getting flashes of things you lost for a long time. Friends and their support are everything. I hitch-hiked (shows you how long ago it was), back to O.B., where I was surrounded with love and support. I never was the same, good or bad I never felt a strong attachment to things afterward. And yes, there were children in the house, my son was about 5, and a couple girlfriends had their 3 kids there also, visiting from S.D. Everyone got out safe! After that, nothing else matters.
What history on that block! That cactus garden used to be another little O.B. cottage. It had a gas leak that blew the house up.
Does anyone know the family? Or how to be in touch with them, and maybe do whatever we could to help them out?


jon March 28, 2009 at 7:41 am

Great work Dave. I would be willing to donate clothing, blankets, food or anything else that is needed. If someone knows the family and they are in need of anything specific I would love to help. KUSI news did a short segment on this story but it did not give much information. I’m sure this family needs a little help, but probably wants their privacy as well. Thankfully no family members were injured or killed.

Also, Dave is right….OB IS and always will be OB! The Rag is providing an excellent forum for us to get together and make sure issues like this do not go unrecognized. Take care of your neighbors everyone.

Thank you again Dave!


Patty Jones March 28, 2009 at 8:36 am

Great job Dave! Yeah, and do keep us up to date on any new developments.


Dave Gilbert March 28, 2009 at 9:38 am

Thanks you guys!

I just walked over there to see what I could find out. Man, I could smell the burnt wood from Cape May. Everything looks about the same and I still don’t see any way to contact the family.

I left my phone # with a neighbor there and told them that if they knew of a way to contact them, to see if there’s anything we can do to help, to please call me.

We’ll see what happens and I’ll keep you updated.


dickie March 28, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Genie, thanks for the memory of that little cottage . . . I always thought the cactus garden was a nice way to go in the aftermath. I also remember sitting around the dining nook table at RockHouse on Saratoga and hearing the blast. FG remember?


Frank Gormlie March 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

No, but I recall stories about the blast. How people in Red House – which was just a few yards away were totally freaked out – they thought the Marines had landed.


lane.tobias March 30, 2009 at 9:23 am

awesome piece of reporting. Living around the corner, I walked down the street the day after the fire and found myself feeling helpless for the family. “The writing on the wall” seems to imply that there is definitely someone responsible for this. I hope they are uncovered.


Marci April 7, 2009 at 11:40 am

thank you, this is the best written article I have found. That was my house and my husband wrote the story on the wall. we are hanging in there. The most important thing we could get from the community is for everyone to keep there eyes and ears out. someone out there knows something, saw something, heard something. I just want the jerk caught!!


Dave Gilbert April 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Thank You Marci,

Everybody that I’ve talked to about your house and what happened wishes you and your family the very best.

I sincerely hope that they are caught too.


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