Eight people were injured, including two critically, and countless residents were displaced after a “suspicious” fire ripped through a 25-story apartment building on L.A.’s westside Wednesday morning, officials said.
The flames broke out on the sixth floor in one of three buildings at the Barrington Plaza complex around 8:37 a.m., according to a Los Angeles Fire Department alert. It’s the same building where a destructive fire burned about six years ago.
Thick, dark smoke and flames could be seen billowing from the building’s southeast corner as crews worked to extinguish the fire, which officials say was driven by wind gusts of up to 35 mph. Multiple windows were blown out due to the intense heat.
Hundreds of firefighters from multiple agencies responded and extinguish it in approximately an hour and 19 minutes, according to LAFD.
Of the eight people injured, one person was reported to be in grave condition and another suffered critical injuries. The youngest victim was 3 months old.
Most of the patients were treated for smoke exposure, according to the LAFD.
Several units across multiple floors sustained extensive damage, with twisted, melted metal and broken windows visible amid the building’s charred exterior, Sky5 aerial video showed.
It was unclear how many residents have been displaced. The American Red Cross has set up an evacuation center.
Some residents didn’t hear smoke alarms
Residents described a chaotic scene after the fire started, including some who told KTLA they didn’t hear an alarm and were alerted to the blaze by neighbors knocking on their doors.
One woman who did hear an alarm said it went off “way after the smoke was already everywhere.”
Resident Eric Kaya told KTLA he was in his seventh-floor apartment with his wife and child when they saw smoke and fire coming from a neighboring unit, which he said was rented out as an Airbnb.
Kaya knocked on the neighbor’s door repeatedly but later saw a man brought down on a ladder by firefighters.
He and his family escaped, but Kaya didn’t have time to grab shoes as the fire worsened.
“There was so much smoke I could barely breathe,” he said.
Another resident told KTLA he saw people rushing out, including some who didn’t have a chance to dress before fleeing and others waving for help from balconies.
The LAFD initially said people apparently had leaped to safety before later confirming that no one jumped.
Video and photos showed a man on the exterior of the building clinging to a sixth or seventh floor near raging flames while a firefighter on a ladder attempted to rescue him.
He was ultimately brought down safely.
“When we arrived on scene, we did have an individual on a balcony that looked as if they were threatening to jump due to the heat and the flame behind him,” LAFD spokesman Erik Scott said. “Our firefighters immediately got on their public address loudspeakers, were able to calm that individual down, and we were able to place an aerial ladder up there and have an effective rescue.”
Multiple people who fled to the roof were being flown out by helicopter.
Scott said they were transported to the Department of Veteran Affairs’ West Los Angeles Medical Center, which is several blocks away.
Fire deemed ‘suspicious’
Arson investigators have been dispatched to the scene to determine what sparked the blaze.
The cause was not immediately known, but LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said it appeared to be “suspicious.”
Investigators are looking into whether the blaze is related to another one that burned earlier in the morning at a high-rise office building several blocks away at the northwest corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevard, according to Terrazas.
At least 50 people were evacuated from the first fire, which began on lower floors around 6:30 a.m. and was extinguished within 90 minutes, an alert stated. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.
Firefighters who battled that blaze were among the first responders at the second scene.
No one has been taken into custody in connection with either fire, and a suspect has not been identified, a Los Angeles Police Department official said at a late-morning news conference.
Devastating fire at Barrington Plaza in 2013
A fire tore through the 11th floor of the same building at Barrington Plaza on Oct. 18, 2013, injuring eight people, displacing dozens and causing millions of dollars in damages, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The cause of that blaze was “undetermined,” but it was “most probably” sparked by a discarded cigarette, according to the Fire Department.
The 386-unit building, which was built in the early 1960s, did not have fire sprinklers, LAFD’s Brian Humphrey said at the time.
The complex has studio, one- and two-bedroom units, with rents varying from $2,350 per month to $3,695 per month, according to Zillow.
It is located in a neighborhood right along the border of L.A.’s upscale Brentwood neighborhood and a short drive away from the 405 Freeway.