With flames billowing out a 3rd floor window, firefighters aggressively attacked a Sun Valley blaze threatening to consume the large, 211 unit apartment building.
At 11:46AM on March 23, 2023, the Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to the 7700 block of N Lankershim Blvd for a reported structure fire.
As the first fire company pulled up on scene, they encountered heavy smoke showing from a four story (three floors over parking) center-hall style apartment building. While the officer requested additional resources, crews starting pulling hose lines and throwing ladders to the building preparing to make entry. Firefighter/Paramedics received reports of people injured and located two critical burn patients. They provided immediate treatment and rapid transport for a 50 year old female and 43 year old male.
The flames coming out the 3rd floor window were lapping up into the 4th floor unit as crews reached the fire. Dark, grey smoke shifted to white when water from their hand lines hit the mark. Over 80 firefighters, operating under the command of Assistant Chief Guy Tomlinson, fully extinguished the blaze in 33 minutes.
Unfortunately, the door to the fire unit was left open, allowing the intense heat and toxic smoke to fill the hallways. The damaged plaster made visible the dangerous potential of this fire. Many more units could have been destroyed and people injured were it not for the aggressive actions of firefighters combined with the functioning ponet doors which closed and isolated the fire.
In 1970, a fire at the Ponet Square Hotel killed 19 people because the fire was able to sweep down stairwells and mushroom throughout the building unabated. After this incident, City Council passed an ordinance requiring buildings more than two stories in height to have enclosed stairwells and corridors protected by self-closing fire doors – named “ponet doors”.
While two patients did sustain serious burn injuries, an additional five patients evaluated for smoke inhalation did not require further medical care. It is unclear at this time whether the fire unit had working smoke alarms but the smoke alarms did sound in other units which alerted occupants and provided them the life-saving time needed to quickly and safely evacuate. This serves as an important reminder of the importance of checking your smoke alarms monthly and never ignoring the ‘chirp’ indicating a battery needing replacement.
Ultimately, the unit of origin on the 3rd floor was fully consumed by the fire while the unit above sustained significant damage at the window/air conditioner and smoke damage inside. The two 2nd floor units directly below the fire sustained significant water damage. At least five units are uninhabitable (the total number of displaced occupants is not known at this time) but the potential for far greater loss was sizeable.
The Los Angeles Red Cross responded to assist with the immediate needs of those displaced occupants.
Per protocol, LAFD Arson and Counter-Terrorism responded and the fire remains under investigation.