Thursday, October 4, 2018
LAFD Spokesperson: Brian Humphrey
Los Angeles Firefighters Battle Stubborn Flames at a Vacant Historic House of WorshipPhoto Credits: Creative Commons licensed for your use | LAFD Photo by Erik Scott
A stubborn predawn blaze Thursday consumed a vacant historic house of worship southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was summoned at 6:23 AM on October 4, 2018 to 720 West Washington Boulevard in the University Park area, where firefighters arrived quickly to find heavy fire showing from the front and sides of a 19,811 square-foot two-story abandoned church.
Though firefighting handlines were swiftly brought to bear on the flames in the hope of an offensive fire attack, a rapid assessment of fire conditions, including structural compromise of the clearly untenable building, led to a swift transition to defensive fireground operations, including the application of large diameter hose streams from the exterior of the well involved premises.
The large building of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, was built in 1924 as the Pierce Brothers Mortuary, serving as their firm's flagship facility, noteworthy as being the first full-service mortuary in Los Angeles, as the building's discrete design allowed both undertaking and memorial services at the single establishment.
Prior to its vacancy, the site served for decades as a house of worship for different congregations, and in 1993 was named a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
A Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety structural engineer arrived shortly after dawn to affirm the earlier findings of LAFD Urban Search and Rescue personnel, that the building was structurally unstable. He quickly 'red-tagged' the still-burning structure as unfit for human occupancy, as the external firefight continued.
Early in the battle, one LAFD Firefighter sustained an unspecified minor injury while tackling flames. He was treated at the scene by Fire Department Paramedics before quickly returning to the conflict. No other firefighter or civilian injuries were reported.
At the peak of the firefight, 133 Los Angeles Firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief Timothy Ernst relentlessly battled stubborn flames, fueled repeatedly by the sequential collapse of flammable building elements into the voluminous burning chapel. Though the bulk of visible flames were quenched before noon, two dozen LAFD personnel maintained hoselines against the tons of still-smoldering debris into Friday morning to assure complete extinguishment. They were successful in preventing fire damage beyond the structure of fire origin.
Because the facility had most recently served as a church, member agencies of the House of Worship Arson Task Force were notified pursuant to protocol. The investigation however, is being formally managed by the Los Angeles Fire Department's Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section.
Structural loss to the vacant building has yet to be determined. The cause of the major emergency fire remains under active investigation.
Dispatched LAFD Units: E210 E10 T10 RA810 RA10 E13 E11 E215 T15 SQ21 BC11 BC1 E211 T11 E26 CM22 EM11 BC13 CM21 E226 T26 E14 RA13 RA15 EM1 EM13 E3 T3 UR3 HR3 RA3 RA803 UR88 BC5 AR1 AR11 PH1 E202 T2 E61 RA811 E294 RA815 RA826 T9 BC18 BC2 EM25 AR9 RM2 AR37 AR19 AR17 EA1 AR21 T39 E239 T29 E229 T75 E275 RA13 RA257 T21 E221 T12 E212 T74 E274 T48 E248 RA11