SAN DIEGO, Dec. 8, 2008 -- An F-18 fighter jet pilot ejected from his plane moments before it crashed into a San Diego neighborhood Monday, sparking at least one house fire.
The jet crashed shortly before noon as it prepared to land at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The crash occurred two miles from the base, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Gregor said the pilot ejected before the crash near Interstate 805. He did not know the pilot's condition or how many people were aboard.
Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said he didn't know if anyone on the ground was injured. TV footage showed what appeared to be the remains of a smoldering house and two cars on fire.
Resident Ed Costa said he heard a loud boom and ran outside after returning home from a supermarket.
"When I first heard the noise, I thought it was a gunshot," said Costa, 54, who lives about two blocks from the crash site.
"I could see black smoke going up. Then we heard a secondary blast. Flames were shooting as high as the light pole," Costa told The Associated Press.
Costa's son Dean felt the house vibrate. He made his way close to the crash site and saw two houses on fire and several cars explode.
"It was just crazy," said Dean Costa, 22. "There was debris everywhere."
A Miramar spokeswoman said personnel from the base were dispatched to the crash site.
"We are still trying to confirm the aircraft even belongs to us," said Marine Staff Sgt. Bobbie Bryant.
The F-18 is a supersonic jet used widely in the Marine Corps and Navy.
Miramar, well known for its role in the movie "Top Gun," is home to some 10,000 Marines. It was operated by the U.S. Navy until 1996.
A woman who answered the phone at University City High School, who would not give her name, said the school near the crash site was in lock-down, meaning students are restricted to their classrooms.
She transferred the call to the principal's office, who did not immediately respond to a message left on an answering machine.
Associated Press writers Michael R. Blood and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this story.