22 Aug 2014
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Cause of High-Rise Fire Under Investigation

The blaze injures 10, including three firefighters and a critically injured 2-year-old girl who was found in a smoke-filled stairwell on the 23rd floor.

Cause of High-Rise Fire Under Investigation

By City News Service

A fire heavily damaged an 11th-story apartment in a Brentwood high-rise today, and at least 10 people were injured, including three firefighters and a critically injured 2-year-old girl who was found in a smoke- filled stairwell on the 23rd floor.

Firefighters were sent to the 25-story Barrington Plaza complex in the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard, near Barrington Avenue, about 11:45 a.m. on a report of smoke showing from the 11th floor, according to Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

At the height of the blaze, a plume of black smoke could be seen emanating from the structure, with flames shooting from west-facing windows.

Within about 45 minutes, the flames had been largely extinguished. The fire was declared out in an hour and 11 minutes. Despite what appeared to be two distinct plumes of smoke coming from the building, fire officials said the blaze was contained to a single two-bedroom apartment.

Two people were initially taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke exposure, Humphrey said. However, as fire crews continued to search the building, paramedics found five other residents suffering from minor to moderate respiratory distress, Humphrey said.

Two of those injured residents declined to be taken to a hospital for treatment, Humphrey said. Among those who were taken to a hospital was a critically injured 2-year-old girl who was found with a man in a 23rd-floor stairwell.

Both were initially taken to the roof of the building for treatment, but then taken to the ground floor. According to reports from the scene, the girl was breathing when she was taken to a UCLA hospital.

"Firefighters did have to perform CPR on the girl and she is now with her doctors at a hospital," fire department Capt. Jaime Moore said.

Officials at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center said three people were taken to that hospital, where one was treated and released and two others remained in critical condition.

Three firefighters also sustained burns and were taken to the Grossman Burn Center for evaluation of non-life-threatening injuries.

"Two of the firefighters have leg burns and the other has a burn to his ear," according to Humphrey. Those firefighters were released from the burn center tonight, Humphrey said.

A dog was killed in the fire, Humphrey added.

Moore said some residents sheltered in place during the blaze, but some were told to leave the building.

"Initially we evacuated the floors immediately above and below the location of the fire," Moore said. "But now the building has been evacuated and firefighters are conducting a secondary search to make sure no residents are injured or trapped in any of the units."

Moore also said because of the aggressive tactics used by firefighters there was a great deal of water in the burned apartment unit and some of that water seeped into the floors below.

Because the building was cleared, a representative of the Red Cross said the agency had set up a reception center for displaced residents at University High School.

As of 8:30 p.m., at least 51 out of an estimated 100 to 150 displaced residents have been allowed to return to the building, Humphrey explained, adding many of the remainder were being assisted at the Red Cross center at University High School.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation by fire department units, including the arson unit. A damage estimate was not immediately available, but in addition to the heavy fire and smoke damage, the heavy amount of water poured onto the blaze was causing damage to some lower floors.

Traffic was routed away from the area as firefighting equipment was staged around the building. Wilshire Boulevard was shut down in the heavily traveled Brentwood-area corridor and traffic congested west of the San Diego (405) Freeway.

Some residents on upper floors of the building ignored fire alarms and remained in their apartments, and fire crews were deployed to check on their welfare, Humphrey said.

The 386-unit building was built in 1961 and was not equipped with a sprinkler system, because it was grandfathered in and not required to be so equipped, according to the LAFD.

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