LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Residents in the 10th through 25th floors of a 25-story apartment building in West Los Angeles have been allowed to return to their units in the aftermath of a big fire, but not all of them were allowed to spend the night.
The seventh floor, where a fire raged for more than an hour Wednesday morning, remains completely closed, but residents of the eighth floor are able to retrieve items through personnel on site.
Those living on the second through sixth floors, as well as the ninth floor, are able to retrieve their items from their unit with an escort but will not be able to stay overnight, according to Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The apartment building's owner reserved a block of rooms at area hotels for the building's residents.
An American Red Cross evacuation center was established at the Westwood Recreation Center. Red Cross volunteers helped 70 people affected by the fire, providing snacks, water and opportunities to gather and learn more information, according to Marilyn Jimenez Davila of the American Red Cross.
The flames were reported in the Barrington Plaza Apartments at 11740 Wilshire Blvd., near Barrington Avenue, at 8:37 a.m. Wednesday and were extinguished at 9:56 a.m., the LAFD reported.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. In a briefing on Wednesday, LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas called the fire “suspicious.”
“We have some information I can't share with you right now, but it is suspicious right now,” he said shortly after the fire was knocked down.
The fire left two 30-year-old men in the apartment where the fire started injured and both were hospitalized, one in grave condition and the other in critical condition, according to Scott.
The man in critical condition was rescued by firefighters using a ladder while he clung to the outside of the building. The apartment the men were in sustained “significant” damage, Scott said.
Scott said a 3-month-old child suffered injuries described as non-critical.
In all, 11 civilians and three firefighters were injured, authorities said. Most of the injuries involved smoke inhalation. Two of the firefighters suffered minor burns while battling the flames, said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott.
The fire began on the building's seventh floor, which is the sixth “residential” floor above the building's lobby, Brian Humphrey of the LAFD said. The flames also affected the sixth, eighth and ninth floors.
The fire erupted about two hours after a blaze broke out in a commercial building roughly three blocks away, but investigators have determined the two fires were not connected.
LAFD Deputy Chief Armando Hogan said firefighters who were mopping up the earlier fire when they spotted the flames in the nearby Barrington Plaza building. Flames and heavy smoke could be seen pouring out of the building, and there were early reports -- they turned out to be erroneous -- of people jumping from balconies in an attempt to escape the blaze.
Hogan said nobody actually jumped, but arriving fire crews found two people who were contemplating a leap -- including the man clinging to the outside the building.
“We got on our public address system and let them know to stay there,” Hogan said. “No one jumped.”
Fire crews used a ladder to rescue the man, and an air mattress was deployed at the base of the building as a precaution.
At the height of the fire, LAFD helicopter crews were hoisting people from the roof of the burning building, something Terrazas called a seldom-used option.
“We have rarely done rooftop evacuations for medical purposes -- rarely,” Terrazas said. “But I'll tell you, we did it today. It's a valuable resource for our helicopters to not only do rooftop evacuations, but we also use these same helicopters for brush fire water-dropping capability. So it worked very effectively. We trained on this many times over the course of the year.”
A total of 15 people were hoisted from the roof, LAFD officials said. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopter crew also assisted in the operation, according to the sheriff's department.
At one point, firefighters who scrambled up the stairs of the burning building crawled on their hands and knees through smoke-filled corridors and apartments, while crews outside the building set up hose lines to douse the fire from the exterior. Terrazas said he was “extremely pleased” with the success of the “unconventional tactics” used to battle the fire.
About 335 firefighters fought the blaze.
Police urged residents with videos related to the fire to provide them to investigators.