LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The origins of a “suspicious” fire that broke out on the seventh floor of a 25-story apartment building in West Los Angeles, injured 14 people, including one in grave condition, remained under investigation, and authorities said some residents could be allowed back into their homes on upper floors later today.
It was revealed that the building had no sprinklers even though the same building burned seven years ago, authorities said.
Some tenants wondered why sprinklers weren’t installed after a 2013 fire in the building injured several people and displaced more than 100.
“They should have put sprinklers in after the fire,” Liz Bowers told the Los Angeles Times.
The flames were reported in the Barrington Plaza Apartments at 11740 Wilshire Blvd., near Barrington Avenue, at 8:37 a.m. Wednesday and were extinguished at 9:56 a.m., the Los Angeles Fire Department reported.
Afterward, the building was “red-tagged” as unsafe for occupancy, but officials were hoping that residents in floors 10 and above would be allowed back into their homes later today, possibly by 5 p.m., said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. In a briefing on Wednesday, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas had called the fire “suspicious.”
“We have some information I can’t share with you right now, but it is suspicious right now,” he said shortly after the fire was knocked down.
The fire began on the building’s seventh floor, which is the sixth “residential” floor above the building’s lobby, said LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey. The flames also affected the sixth, eighth and ninth floors of the building.
Scott told KTLA5 early Thursday afternoon that firefighters were escorting residents from the ground floor to the sixth floor into their homes to retrieve belongings, but not on the seventh floor, where the fire originated. The eighth and ninth floors were restricted to firefighters only to retrieve belongings as needed.
Authorities were hoping that the 10th floors and above would be reopened to residents later Thursday, but only if it was determined that elevators, electricity, fire safety equipment, and water supply systems were fully operational, Scott said.
The fire left two 30-year-old men in the apartment where the fire started injured and both were hospitalized, one in grave condition and the other in critical condition, according to Scott.
The man in critical condition was rescued by firefighters using a ladder while clinging to the outside of the building. The apartment the men were in sustained “significant” damage, Scott said.
Scott said a 3-month-old child suffered injuries described only as non-critical.
In all, 11 civilians and three firefighters were injured, authorities said. Most of the injuries involved smoke inhalation. Two of the firefighters suffered minor burns while battling the flames, Scott said.
The fire erupted about two hours after a blaze broke out in a commercial building roughly three blocks away, but investigators have determined the two fires were not connected.
LAFD Deputy Chief Armando Hogan said firefighters who were mopping up the earlier fire when they spotted the flames in the nearby Barrington Plaza building. Flames and heavy smoke could be seen pouring out of the building, and there were early reports of people jumping from balconies in an attempt to escape the blaze. Hogan said nobody actually jumped, but arriving fire crews found two people who were contemplating a leap — including the man clinging to
the outside of the building.
“We got on our public address system and let them know to stay there,” Hogan said. “No one jumped.”
Fire crews used a ladder to rescue the man, and an air mattress was deployed at the base of the building as a precaution.
At the height of the fire, LAFD helicopter crews were hoisting people from the roof of the burning building, something Terrazas called a seldom-used option.
“We have rarely done rooftop evacuations for medical purposes — rarely,” Terrazas said. “But I’ll tell you, we did it today. It’s a valuable resource for our helicopters to not only do rooftop evacuations, but we also use these same helicopters for brush fire water-dropping capability. So it worked very effectively. We trained on this many times over the course of the
A total of 15 people were hoisted from the roof, LAFD officials said.
A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter crew also assisted in the operation, according to the sheriff’s department.
At one point, firefighters who scrambled up the stairs of the burning building crawled on their hands and knees through smoke-filled corridors and apartments, while crews outside the building set up hose lines to being dousing the fire from the exterior. Terrazas said he was “extremely pleased” with the success of the “unconventional tactics” used to battle the fire.
Two residents who were sleeping in an 11th-floor apartment told KNX Newsradio they heard what sounded like a pair of explosions that woke them up.
About 335 firefighters fought the blaze.
An American Red Cross evacuation center was established at Westwood Recreation Center, 1350 S. Sepulveda Blvd., and the apartment building’s owner reserved a block of hotel rooms at area hotels.
Police urged residents with videos related to either fire to provide them to investigators.
Barrington Plaza residents who needed to retrieve medications from their unit in the fire-damaged building were advised to go to the lobby of Barrington Plaza, Tower A, with their keys, authorities said. Building personnel and security coordinated with the LAFD to help residents retrieve their medicines.
The Barrington Plaza building is no stranger to fire. On Oct. 18, 2013, a fire in the building heavily damaged an 11th-story apartment and left nearly a dozen people injured, including three firefighters and a critically injured 2-year-old girl who was found in a smoke-filled stairwell on the 23rd floor.
Firefighters were sent to the complex about 11:45 a.m. that day and extinguished the flames in an hour and 11 minutes. Despite what appeared to be two distinct plumes of smoke coming from the building, fire officials said the blaze was contained to a single two-bedroom apartment.
After a months-long investigation, fire officials ultimately said they could not determine an exact cause of the 2013 fire, but said it was “most probably” sparked by “discarded smoking material.”
The 240-unit building was built in 1961 and is not equipped with a sprinkler system, according to the LAFD. The building’s last inspection was June 2019, and it was found to be up to code, Scott said.