SAN BERNARDINO (CBS) — Authorities say illegal fireworks ignited and set off a blaze that gutted a duplex in San Bernardino early Sunday morning.

The fire displaced two families including five children.

Reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, Kristine Lazar spoke to neighbors who witnessed the fire and at least one who told her she wasn’t surprised there was a blaze.

Neighbor Rhonda Beck said, “We knew something was going to happen.” She said the people who lived in the now burned-out duplex had been setting off the illegal fireworks for the past three nights. “It would start around 6:30 at night. And it went all the way to midnight sometimes. For the past 72 hours, it’s been doing that. We knew this just wasn’t some kids saying ‘Let’s get some fireworks. We knew they had a cache.”

Fire officials said the illegal fireworks started the fire which spread quickly to a carport where even more illegal fireworks were being stored.

Capt. Jason Serrano of the San Bernardino Fire Department said, “Flames were spreading significantly into the two-story duplex, had already reached inside the attic. And there was an electrical issue with arcing lines.”

Jonathan Saldana, another neighbor, is credited with helping save the lives of twol children — including a baby. “We had to go knock, and then they came out. They started trying to water it. And that’s when I grabbed the little girl and ran out. And then the mom came, like ten minutes later, and she fell twice and I had to get the little girl from her hands.”

Arson investigators told Lazar they didn’t yet have enough information to make an arrest.

The investigation into who owned the fireworks continues.

Said Captain Serrano, “These fireworks are illegal for a reason. They’re like bombs.”

Rhonda Beck said this should be a cautionary tale to anyone who wants to store or set off illegal fireworks. “Don’t do it any more. This should be a lesson. You see kids running out of burning buildings, kids having to be rescued. This is not fun.”


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