A stovetop fire spread quickly throughout a 60,000-square-foot apartment building in Northridge Thursday.
NORTHRIDGE, CA — 95 firefighters took 33 minutes to extinguish a fire that broke out on the third floor of a large Northridge apartment building, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
As of 12:17 p.m., LAFD paramedics have evaluated three civilians for unspecified but non-life-threatening injuries, and one person was transported to a nearby hospital. No other injuries or fatalities have been reported.
The fire broke out just before 11:45 p.m. Thursday in a 3rd floor unit of a 60,246 square-foot, three-story, 53-unit apartment building on the 9800 block of North Reseda Boulevard, just across the street from LAFD Station 70, according to the LAFD. Firefighters were able to confine the fire at around 12:15 p.m., and the building remains standing. Most residents quickly self-evacuated, but LAFD crews had to help one person get out of the building, according to LAFD spokesperson Brian Humphrey. Fire sprinklers were not present in the building, but functioning fire alarms allowed most residents to safely escape.
The fire was caused by flames from a stove-top fire, fueled by cooking oil. Although the person cooking tried to stop it with fire extinguishers, the blaze broke windows and allowed strong winds to spread it and send thick smoke through the top of the building, Humphrey told City News Service.
“With the thick smoke challenging the escape of occupants from several of the 52 other apartment units, firefighters swiftly ascended ground and aerial ladders to perform strategic vertical ventilation of the attic with chainsaws, making the top floor exit paths more tenable to escapees, and allowing their colleagues with hose lines to more readily attack the seat of the fire,” Humphrey said.
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LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Tens of thousands of Southern California Edison customers were without power Wednesday as strong winds posed the risk of downing power lines that could spark wildfires.
SCE imposed public safety power shutoffs, in which electricity is turned off for customers in wind-prone areas. As of early Wednesday afternoon, over 26,800 SCE customers had their power shut off, while another 36,000 customers were under consideration for shutoffs.
Meanwhile, firefighters battling blazes across the Southland appeared to have gained the upper hand while contending with the strong winds following a day of ferocious Santa Anas that battered mountain and valley areas. Fire crews were working to contain a 43-acre brush fire on the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians reservation near Mecca. The non-injury blaze, which was 50% contained as of Wednesday morning, was reported about 4:40 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Pierce Street and Avenue 73 amid a red flag warning due to high winds and low humidity.
Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman April Newman said 18 firefighters remained on scene with the goal of fully containing the blaze by the end of the day.
A few fires broke out Tuesday, including one in the Santa Clarita area that blackened 167 acres and a wind-driven brush fire near the westbound 10 Freeway in the San Dimas area that burned about 40 acres. Firefighters appeared to have the upper hand on both blazes Wednesday.
A red flag warning for extreme fire danger expired Tuesday night, but elevated to brief critical fire conditions were still possible Wednesday due to continued strong and gusty offshore winds, according to the National Weather Service.
A wind advisory was in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday for most of Los Angeles County, and a high wind warning was in effect until 6 p.m. for Orange County coastal areas, and until 10 p.m. for inland Orange County. North to northeast winds of 25 to 40 mph were expected in the San Clarita Valley, with gusts up to 55 mph. Gusts were expected to reach 55 mph in the San Fernando Valley, 50 mph in metro Los Angeles, and 60 mph in the mountains. The winds should become weaker by nightfall, with those number dropping by 15 to 20 mph, the NWS said. On Tuesday, the NWS recorded gusts topping 86 mph in some mountain areas, including Warm Springs and the Magic Mountain Truck Trail in northern Los Angeles County. Other parts of the Santa Clarita Valley were hit with gusts topping 40 and 50 mph, as were select areas of the San Fernando Valley. Winds were also recorded near 50 mph in the Antelope Valley.
The Los Angeles County and city fire departments were prepared up for the wind event, pre-deploying resources in critically endangered areas prior to Tuesday. The Los Angeles Fire Department stationed three task forces in the valleys, while the county fire department ordered “additional staffing and pre-deployment of resources throughout the county.”
Red flag parking restrictions took effect Los Angeles at 8 a.m. The restrictions, which bar residents from parking on streets in high fire hazard zones to ensure fire crews can access hard-to-reach areas, were scheduled to be lifted at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Pasadena imposed similar restrictions at noon, continuing through at least 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Kevin McGowan, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management, urged residents to be prepared for dangerous conditions.
“Our emergency response officials are world-class and will stand ready to defend lives and property,” he said. “But we need collaboration from all residents who live in L.A. County to stay safe as a region. We must all do our part by staying informed and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice, especially if you live in canyon, mountain or foothill communities.”
He urged residents to have an evacuation plan in place and be prepared by taking steps such as parking vehicles facing the street and on driveways — not in garages that may not be accessible if electric garage-door openers become inoperable in an outage.
NATCHITOCHES, La. — Natchitoches firefighters and first responders responded to a fire in downtown Natchitoches Thursday morning. The fire on the north end of Front Street heavily damaged Mayeaux’s and All Tangled Up salon. Residents in the nearby apartments were alerted and were on standby in the event the fire spread, the Natchitoches Times reported. There were no evacuations. The fire department was able to keep the fire contained.
The Natchitoches Parish Journal shared dramatic video with KTBS 3 of the desperate attempts to extinguish the fire.
Natchitoches Fire Chief John Wynn said they received the call at 5:34 a.m. from the city police.
“We got on scene and made attack, and evidently it looks like it had been burning for a time. That’s about all we know right now until we can make further access inside,” Wynn told the Natchitoches Times. “All of our units are on scene and we called District 6 to come help us supplement water from their truck.”
He said the point of origin will possibly be determined once they make entry and conduct their investigation. “We have to get crews inside to see,” Wynn said.
Wynn said there were no known injuries to the public or his firemen and women as of 8:45 a.m.
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A fire broke out Wednesday morning in a 25-story Westside
residential building, sending residents climbing out windows and fleeing to the
rooftop to escape the flames. The blaze, which erupted on the sixth floor at
the Barrington Plaza apartments in the 11700 block of Wilshire Boulevard, was
reported shortly after 8:30 a.m. by fire crews, who were tending a nearby blaze
that had begun earlier.
At least 300 firefighters responded to help battle the fire
and evacuate residents inside the building. Eleven residents were injured;
seven were sent to a hospital for treatment, including a 3-month-old baby, and
four were treated at the scene. Most were suffering from smoke inhalation. Two
firefighters suffered minor burns.
One 30-year-old man required CPR and was listed in grave
condition Wednesday afternoon, and another 30-year-old man was in critical
condition, according to Los Angeles Fire Capt. Erik Scott. “The preliminary
information is the two most critically injured … were both in the unit of fire
origin,” Scott said.
Fire officials initially reported that some people had
jumped from the building to escape the flames. Authorities later clarified that
two people contemplated jumping but were rescued by fire officials. Residents
crawled on their bellies through thick smoke to escape. One man was seen
clinging to a ledge before a fire ladder was hoisted up to him. “This could
have been much worse,” Scott said.
Fire officials said residents won’t be allowed back into the
building overnight while they investigate the blaze, which was deemed
Firefighters took an unconventional approach in battling the
flames, hosing the building from the outside in an effort to cool the units
before allowing firefighters to tackle the flames inside. The bulk of the fire
was on the sixth floor of the 240-unit high-rise, though three other levels
were damaged by smoke, officials said.
While some crews focused on the fire inside, others were
tasked with evacuations. At least 15 people, some in bathrobes, were airlifted
to safety from the building’s rooftop. Officials said it was the first time the
fire chopper had been used in rescue efforts. “This was a herculean effort by
the members of the Los Angeles Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Ralph
Terrazas. “It takes a lot of coordination, and our resources did a good job.”
After an intense, hourlong battle that was made more
challenging by strong winds gusting up to 35 mph, firefighters were able to
knock down the flames shortly before 10 a.m. Deputy Police Chief Justin
Eisenberg said the Los Angeles Police Department and arson investigators were
studying the blaze to determine whether it was criminal or accidental. No one
has been arrested in connection with the fire, he said. The separate fire that
started earlier in the morning about three blocks away also is part of the
Mackenzie Williams, 25, said she was driving to work at Pure
Barre — a fitness studio at Wilshire Boulevard and Granville Avenue — about 9
a.m. when she “saw one firetruck pass by me, then I saw two, then I saw 10,
then I saw about 20, so I definitely knew something was going on.” After seeing
smoke pouring from the building and the helicopter evacuations, she said, “I
just hope everyone is OK over there.”
John Tavakoli was outside when the floor where his
grandmother lives burst into flames. As firefighters rushed to evacuate her and
her neighbors, his initial horror settled into smoldering rage — another fire
like this one had burned here a few years ago, but little had changed. Like
others, he blamed the revolving door of short-term renters for unsafe
conditions in the building.
“A lot of people Airbnb here.” he said. “They party all
night — they’re up until 2 a.m. on a Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, he said, safety issues have gone unaddressed.
“Our rent goes up, utilities go up, but one elevator’s
always broken,” he said.
Resident Gavyn Straus stood barefoot on the sidewalk,
holding a towel around his American-flag bathing suit as he watched a Sheriff’s
Department helicopter hoisting stranded neighbors off the roof. He had been in
the pool swimming laps when he turned his head for a breath and noticed the
smoke. Right away, he leaped out of the pool and dashed up to alert neighbors
on his floor.
The smoke “was like a black wall” on the seventh floor, he
said. Higher up, he started banging on doors, telling neighbors to get out.
Twins Kristina and Kimberly Pagano, recent UCLA grads, were
asleep in their apartment when the fire broke out. They woke up to the sound of
firetrucks. Moments later, the building fire alarm went off, and they rushed
Both immediately thought of the 2013 fire, believed to have
been sparked by a cigarette. The building still allows residents to smoke in
their units on designated floors, which the sisters had toured before moving
in. Like others, they said the building hosts a large number of short-term
“We always see people with luggage,” Kristina said.
“It’s like a hotel,” Kimberly agreed.
Officials have said that there is no indication the fire was
caused by anyone smoking inside or that it broke out in a unit rented as an
Airbnb. The building is covered by L.A.’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which
limits annual rent increases for tenants, but some of its units are exempt from
that law, according to housing department spokeswoman Sandra Mendoza. Under an
ordinance that went into effect last year, Angelenos cannot rent out their
apartments for short stays if they live in a rent-stabilized unit.
The 2013 fire erupted on the 11th floor of the building,
displacing up to 150 residents and injuring two people. It also raised concerns
about a lack of sprinkler systems in some buildings in Los Angeles. Barrington
Plaza was not equipped with a sprinkler system at the time. Because it was
built nearly 60 years ago, it does not fall under state regulations later
adopted that forced buildings taller than 75 feet to include such
fire-suppression systems unless granted an exemption.
Los Angeles has a loophole in its fire code that allows 71 residential high-rises to house tenants despite having no fire sprinklers in the buildings. The structures were built between 1943 and 1974, when new codes required sprinklers.
Deputy Chief Armando Hogan said Wednesday the building still
does not have sprinklers. There have been repeated attempts to require older
buildings to install sprinkler systems, including a push after Barrington
Plaza’s last fire, but landlords at the time argued they would cost too much.
A year ago, the City Council again tabled a proposal to
require sprinklers in all buildings. One of the sponsors of the measure said
the issue lost momentum amid opposition from landlords, but Councilman Mike
Bonin said he will reintroduce a mandate for sprinklers in light of the latest
Curtis Massey, chief executive of fire safety consulting
company Massey Emergency Management, said the sprinkler systems typically seen
in modern high-rises quickly douse flames before they have a chance to spread. “It’s
like an on-duty 24-hour firefighter that’s able to respond faster in most
circumstances to a fire than the building staff or the fire department,” said
Massey, whose company has worked on fire preparedness plans for Century Plaza
and the Wilshire Grand Center.
Modern fire safety features also include elevator and
stairwell-pressurization systems that keep the smoke out of those areas, he
In 2014, a group of tenants in the high-rise sued the
building’s corporate owner for negligence. According to residents, several fire
alarms failed to sound in Barrington Plaza as the October 2013 blaze spread. A
door to the roof was locked and the stairwells filled with choking smoke,
tenants said. “The conditions at the supposedly high-end apartment building
were atrocious,” attorney Mark Geragos said at the time.
Resident Ivo Gerscovich’s 2-year-old daughter and
father-in-law were found unconscious in a smoke-filled stairwell above the 20th
floor during the 2013 fire. “It’s a deathtrap,” Gerscovich said then. “It’s
totally insane and indefensible.” Ben Meiselas, an attorney with Geragos’ firm,
said the building “is a relic of the 1960s.” “It conformed to codes of the
1960s, and since that time, they’ve availed themselves through grandfather
clauses of the building codes of that bygone era,” he said.
Meiselas said building owners should be required to
prominently display whether their structures adhere to current codes. “You have
this building that advertises itself as a class-A luxury building, but back in
2013, at least, it really had fundamental safety issues,” he said.
Residents said that they weren’t aware of any additional
safety measures. “This situation really scares me,” said Ploy Pengsomboon, who
was able to evacuate from her ninth-floor unit only after smelling smoke and
hearing firetruck sirens. “I’m scared if one day I’m in a deep sleep and
something like this happens. I didn’t get a chance to prepare. They should tell
everyone to get out and shouldn’t let us learn about it ourselves.”
The blaring of a fire alarm woke 84-year-old Dan Karzen, who
has lived in Barrington Plaza for 20 years. “I had my pajamas on, so I had to
hurry to put some clothes on, grab my phone and walk out the door of my
16th-floor apartment,” Karzen said. “I knew it was bad because there was all
After leaving the building, he crossed the street to a strip
mall, where he stopped to await word from fire officials. “I don’t know when
we’re going to go back in, and I don’t want to leave because all my stuff is up
there,” he said.
When Liz Bowers was jolted awake by sirens, she smelled
smoke and immediately thought it couldn’t be another fire, remembering the 2013
blaze. But when she looked out her window, there it was. “I was like … it’s
Tower A again,” she said. She had a clear view of the flames and clouds of
black smoke. She could hear screams and windows blowing out from the heat of
the flames. Bowers ran downstairs to the public pool area shared by the two
buildings and continued watching as firefighters worked to quell the flames and
rescue residents. After witnessing the dramatic events, she decided she’d had
enough. She needs to move out.
Bowers thought about all the times she could smell cigarette
and marijuana smoke from her apartment, the result of little oversight from
building managers, she said. She spent three years knocking on the leasing
office’s door, writing letters and making phone calls to building managers.
Eventually, she gave up. “They should have put sprinklers in after the 
fire,” she said. “They let everybody smoke. There’s a lot of Airbnb [rentals].
You get all these people coming into party and smoke pot. The landlords don’t
Times staff writers Matt Stiles, Dakota Smith, Colleen Shalby, Andrew J. Campa, Emily Alpert Reyes, James Rainey and Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.
For more information about our services, call CJ Suppression at 888-821-2334 or visit the website at www.cjsuppression.com.
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Wildfires have almost become a year-round threat in some parts of the western United States. From Colorado to California, it feels like the blazes from last year never went out.
Flames ignited forests and chaparral virtually nonstop in 2017, and the year ended with record infernos in Southern California that burned well into 2018.
Officials don’t refer to “fire seasons anymore but rather to fire years,” Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, told me in an email.
The NIFC reports that this year, wildfires have burned more than 3.9 million acres, about 11 percent above the average since 2008. At the moment, 13 states are reporting large fires, from Alaska to New Mexico.
On Thursday, the Carr Fire erupted in Redding, California, sending a 100-foot-high “wall of flame” through the town. The fire has already engulfed more than 44,000 acres, skipped over the Sacramento River, and is just 3 percent contained as of Friday morning. The blaze has killed two firefighters and prompted mandatory evacuations for many of the city’s 92,000 residents.
The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park has meanwhile burned more than 45,000 acres, an area more than 51 times the size of Central Park in Manhattan, since igniting on July 13. More than 3,400 firefighters from as far away as Virginia are fighting the blaze. As of Friday, the fire was only 29 percent contained and had led to the death of one firefighter, Braden Varney.
Further south, in San Bernardino National Forest near Los Angeles, the Cranston Fire ignited Wednesday morning forcing more than 3,000 people to evacuate. Authorities believe an arsonist is behind the 11,500-acre blaze.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared states of emergency for Shasta County, where the Carr Fire is burning, and Riverside County, where the Cranston Fire continues to rage.
Meanwhile, the Substation Fire near Portland, Oregon, has torched 79,000 acres and forced 75 households to evacuate. It’s just one of 160 wildfires across Oregon, though most fires are currently in the southern part of the state. As of Thursday morning, the Substation Fire is 92 percent contained. And in Colorado, wildfires have already ripped through more than 175,000 acres, and the ensuing rains have brought mudslides along the freshly denuded landscape.
And it’s likely to get worse. Many parts of the US are facing a higher than normal fire risk this year.
It’s an alarming echo of last year’s devastating fire season, which charred more than 10 million acres, making it one of the worst years in more than three decades. California suffered its largest wildfire ever, the Thomas Fire, which engulfed an area 1.6 times the size of New York City.
As firefighters take on new blazes and homeowners rebuild in the ashes, here are some things worth knowing and what we can expect for the remainder of the fire season.
Some states are already seeing worse fires than last year, and the risks remain high
A key thing to remember is that wildfires are ordinarily a natural phenomenon. Many parts of the US are primed to burn, and fires are vital to the ecosystem, restoring nutrients to the soil and clearing out decaying brush. Trees like the Jack pine only release their seeds after a fire. Plants like buckthorn need fires to germinate.
But the destruction from the gargantuan blazes we’ve seen in recent years is hardly natural; human activity is clearly making it worse.
For one thing, humans start the vast majority of these fires, upward of 84 percent of them. California officials have blamed a dozen of last year’s fires on Pacific Gas and Electric’s power lines. Utilities were also blamed for fires in Nevada. Arson was suspected for fires in Northern California.
Another factor is how humans use the land. People are increasingly building closer to the wilderness, blurring the line between suburbs and shrubland. That means that when fires do burn, they threaten more lives and property. Meanwhile, active fire suppression in some areas has allowed dry vegetation to accumulate, so when embers ignite, it causes a massive conflagration.
And of course, the climate is changing, mostly due to human activity. Rising average temperatures have led to western forests drying out, increasing the risk of fires. There are 129 million dead trees in California alone. Across the state, the total number of fires is trending downward, but the size of fires is going up.
But in Southern California’s fires, like last year’s Thomas Fire, scientists don’t see a climate signal just yet. The region is hot and dry year-round. Drought can actually kill off the grasses and shrubs that would ordinarily burn. As a result, the fire risks haven’t demonstrated an association with rising temperatures so far. However, modeling shows that by 2050, climate change will increase the size of burned areas in Southern California.
Despite the significant swaths of the country that went up in flames last year, there is still plenty of fuel around, even in areas that ignited last year. “Although  was the second highest number of acres burned since 1960, it is a fraction of the more than 1 billion acres of vegetated landscapes in the U.S., so there is a lot of land left to burn,” said NIFC’s Jones.
In fact, new vegetation has already sprung up. That’s because the winter brought much-needed moisture to the drought-stricken West, despite an unusually warm winter.
Scott McLean, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), explained that the precipitation spurred fast-growing grasses and shrubs. The searing, record-setting heat that followed this year dried out plants, leaving many parts of the West coated in tinder.
In California, fires have already burned more land and Cal Fire has initiated 200 more fire responses now than it did at the same point last year.
The NIFC reports that Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and California all face “above normal” fire risks throughout much of their territories, as this map shows:
There are still drought conditions in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona that will likely persist even after seasonal rains, and lightning from the storms threatens to ignite new wildfires. Fire risks are lower in northern Montana and Washington state due to a wet spring.
As with last year, the fire potential will increase in the early fall along coastal Oregon and California as fast-moving seasonal winds pick up.
Even as we get better at fighting wildfires, they’re becoming more costly and dangerous
Firefighters are trying to apply some of the lessons learned from last year’s blazes. Cal Fire says it has managed to contain the vast majority of fires in its jurisdiction to less than 10 acres. But with more development in fire-prone regions, it’s getting harder to balance the demands to protect property against the need for the land to burn.
Fire officials are working with communities to explain why controlled burns are a necessary step to prevent more dangerous fires, but it makes homeowners antsy. “When you put fire on the ground, people get a little concerned,” said Cal Fire’s McLean. “It’s still an education process.”
It would also help to have policies that discourage building in the highest-risk areas. That’s difficult when the population is growing in many parts of the West and some of the cheapest land for new housing is in those regions poised to burn.
So far, this year, it seems that many of the same mistakes that have put people at risk are being repeated. In California, some residents are rebuilding in the same fire zones where homes burned last year, spurred in part by insurance payouts.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said referred to the Substation Fire as being in Southern Oregon. The fire is in the northern part of the state.
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