Fire Consumes Vacant Historic House of Worship in Los Angeles

Thursday, October 4, 2018
Los Angeles Firefighters Battle Stubborn Flames at a Vacant Historic House of Worship
Photo 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  
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