A Marine Corps veteran was brought to tears by the generosity of friends, neighbors and strangers who offered help after his home was destroyed by a fire.
"Everybody is just reaching out to me, offering me places to stay in their house, offering me to stay in their camper, offering me clothes, furniture, anything that I need," Poway resident TJ Poucher said.
Poucher's home in the Garden Road neighborhood went up in flames just before 5 a.m. Saturday. Poucher, a friend and two pets escaped the inferno by jumping out of a window.
"I was trained as a Marine Corps infantryman. We thrive in chaos, and I kind of knew I had to bust out the window immediately," Poucher said.
Poucher said he lost priceless items like letters written to him while he was in bootcamp, and a collection of Christmas ornaments given to him over the span of his life by his grandparents.
The self-described "collector of collections," also lost thousands of comics and an intricate homemade "X-Men" costume he loved wearing to Comic-Con.
A bunch of expensive equipment Poucher uses to make a living cleaning and servicing aquariums was also destroyed. Some of that equipment may have added to the intensity of the blaze.
U.S. & World
"I was by the door and I just knew there was fire on the other side, and there was a chemical smell in the air. I was choking on the air," Poucher said. "I cracked the door open and I was blasted in the face by -- no flames but just like a hot furnace, like a jet engine. It blew my hair back and singed my hair, my eyebrows and my eyelashes."
Two things Poucher was grateful not to lose were his teenage children who were not staying with him at the time.
"That's just a blessing, obviously. It was a miracle," he said. "Thank God they weren't here that night, because their rooms are totally destroyed," he said.
Poucher's next-door neighbor said deputies woke his family up and told them to leave.
"If you walked out of the house, you could just see a wall of flame. You could feel it," Christina Yen described.
Another neighbor, Curtis Green, said he saw the orange glow from his bedroom and, given the fire conditions, his first thought was a wildfire. He said he was ready to get out with his wife and infant son.
The Poway Fire Department and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department battled the blaze.
"It's pretty incredible to see all the effort that goes into it," Green said.
The house was at a total loss, according to the Poway Fire Department. A GoFundMe page has been started to help Pucher recover from the fire.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation.