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Death Toll Rises to Five, Two Injured in Westlake Conflagration

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
WESTLAKE
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It took nearly 150 ‪Los Angeles‬ ‪Firefighters‬ nearly two and a half hours to extinguish a major emergency fire‬ in a vacant 2 story office building west of downtown Los Angeles Monday evening.

The Los Angeles Fire Department was summoned at 7:01 PM on June 13, 2016 to a structure fire at 2411 West 8th Street in the Westlake neighborhood not far from MacArthur Park. LAFD‬ responders arrived quickly to find intense fire on the upper floor of a long vacant 14,351 square-foot two story office building, the site of previous blazes.

Firefighters used ground ladders to assist several imperiled persons at windows of the burning structure, with LAFD responders entering the building to performing the rescue of three others.  

While extending hoselines to aggressively battle the flames within, LAFD crews sadly discovered and retrieved a dead man from the inferno, before the failing structure forced then to switch to defensive exterior operations twenty minutes into the firefight.

A total of 147 LAFD personnel under the command of Battalion Chief Jaime Moore, confined the blaze to the heavily damaged building of fire origin - which had no functional fire sprinklers, extinguishing the bulk of flame in just 2 hours and 22 minutes.

As a result of witnesses statements, Los Angeles Police Department Officers later detained and arrested an adult male suspected of starting the fire. He and one of the persons earlier rescued by firefighters, were taken to an area hospital by ambulance for evaluation of non-life threatening injuries.

With the flames extinguished well past darkness, firefighters remained at the structurally unsound premises to douse hotspots, prevent public harm and prepare for a further search at daybreak.

Early Tuesday, investigation teams from the LAFD Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section methodically processed the large and still-smoldering site to determine the fire's cause and origin, as highly-trained Human Remains Detection Dog and Handler teams performed a relentless search of the collapsed structure for deceased victims.

With the canines' help, firefighters discovered the remains of four adult victims, two men and two women, amid the rubble on the second floor of the building. Their discovery, combined with the male victim found deceased by firefighters battling the blaze, brought the death tally to five, all of whom appeared to be transients.

No firefighters sustained injury in the firefight, investigation or recovery operations.

A positive identification of the dead persons, to include the cause, time and manner of their death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday evening, Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas requested the public's assistance in the prevention of tragedies such as this, by notifying the City's Department of Building and Safety through the 3-1-1 system and/or LADBS.org of any vacant and open buildings in the City of Los Angeles.  

Chief Terrazas pledged the LAFD's assistance in this effort by having firefighters survey every fire station district for vacant and open buildings and refer them to LADBS staff to be secured.  

As of Tuesday evening, the cause of the fire remained under active investigation.

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