Two senior citizens were being treated Tuesday for serious burns and another for smoke inhalation they suffered in a blaze in a 15- story, city-owned senior living facility that isn’t equipped with a sprinkler system, a fire department spokesman said.
The cause of the fire, which broke out about 8:45 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor of the Union Tower building at 455 S. Union Ave. in the Westlake district, was under active investigation by the Los Angeles Fire Department‘s Arson Section, according to the LAFD’s Erik Scott.
Five residents were injured in the fire, three of whom — a 75-year-old man, a 75-year-old woman and an 80-year-old woman — required hospitalization, Scott said. Two of the three were critically burned and one suffered smoke inhalation, he said. The other two suffered minor injuries.
The 150 firefighters sent to the building — none of whom were injured — faced “multiple challenges” in battling the flames, Scott said.
“This building did not have sprinklers to assist holding the flames in check, and there were no self-closing doors to assist in the compartmentalization of the smoke and fire,” Scott said.
During the 42-minute firefight, crews dragged hose lines about 100 feet down a dark, smoke-filled hallway into the involved units and stopped the flames from spreading horizontally to adjacent units or to units above, Scott said.
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, which owns the 200- unit building, reported this afternoon that Union Tower passed an annual fire inspection conducted by LAFD in July.
The building “is equipped with a fire system which includes fire alarms, smoke detectors in common areas as well as inside of the units,” according to a HACLA statement.
“Two units are directly impacted by the fire. The Housing Authority is still working to restore full power to the building. The building management team has reached out to the Department of Mental Health to request assistance to help residents during this difficult time,” the statement said.
HACLA officials said displaced residents were being cared for in the building’s social hall, and the American Red Cross was providing assistance.
Firefighters performed a rapid systematic search for trapped victims, Scott said, adding that the incident commander worked with building management to determine the location of occupants with special medical needs, particularly those who couldn’t walk, and provided the necessary assistance to ensure their safety.
Residents above the fire, those living on the fifth floor and higher, were ordered to shelter in place by staying behind closed doors in their apartments, Scott said. Residents on the fire floor and below were calmly and quickly evacuated, he said.
The estimated dollar loss was being tabulated.
—City News Service