A raging fire that injured three people and displaced about 300 residents at a Pico Rivera apartment complex was “most likely” caused by plumbing work, investigators said Friday.
About 220 firefighters battled the blaze that broke out about 3:35 p.m. Thursday at the complex in the 9100 block of Burke Street, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“All indications (are) the Pico Rivera apartment fire most likely (was) caused by plumbing work,” sheriff’s officials said Friday morning.
The investigation was being conducted by arson investigators from the county sheriff’s department and the fire department.
Meanwhile, an emergency shelter was set up for residents displaced from the Corsica Apartment Homes complex at Rivera Park, 9530 Shade Lane.
The first-arriving units saw thick smoke coming from the building, which is one in a cluster of four, and found heavy fire inside a vacant apartment, fire department Inspector Gustavo Medina said.
The flames made their way into the structure’s common attic, according to Medina, who said the fire then spread quickly.
A woman and one other person suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to a hospital, as was a firefighter who suffered from heat exhaustion. Their injuries were described as minor.
More than 141 apartment units were affected by the blaze, 45 of them with fire and smoke damage, and about 300 residents were displaced. Crews were forced to back out of the building and pour heavy water streams onto the flames from outside the structure in a defensive posture.
By 5 p.m., the bulk of the visible flames had been replaced with billowing smoke, and by 7:35 p.m., the fire had been contained, although firefighters continued to put out hot spots late into the night.
Urban search and rescue teams and building and safety inspectors went through the structure once it was safe to do so.
The American Red Cross was summoned to assist evacuated residents, who were directed to the Rivera Park shelter.
At a mid-morning news conference Friday, Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho thanked community members for their support of the affected residents.
“By 5 o’clock (Thursday) we had residents from throughout the community bringing water, food, clothing — just a variety of different items; diapers,” Camacho said. “And so, I’m very thankful for the community and the individuals that acted so quickly … to help their neighbors in need.”
County fire Assistant Chief Nick Duvally described the damage to the apartment complex.
“There are four separate buildings,” Duvally said. “The eastern building had fire damage to the third floor, significant water and smoke damage to the first and second (floors) … and then we had the fire in the attic, and that collapsed into the third floor.
“The other three buildings, we were able to save the vast majority of those three buildings, so the fire did not get into those buildings,” Duvally said.
—City News Service