Firefighters Rescued from Burning Church - Photo courtesy of OnScene.TV

Authorities Monday were seeking the cause of a major emergency fire that destroyed a two-story church in the South Park area of Los Angeles and left three firefighters injured.

The fire was reported at 2:22 a.m. Sunday at the Victory Baptist Church, 4802 S. McKinley Ave., and about 150 firefighters were ultimately sent to the scene, according to Nicholas Prange of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

“Crews initially made entry to find heavy smoke inside the structure,” Prange said in a statement. “As firefighters made entry, inevitably introducing more air to the conditions inside, fire behavior worsened quickly.

“Approximately 30 minutes after the arrival of firefighters, there was a structural collapse inside, trapping several LAFD members,” Prange said. “Two consecutive mayday calls were put out on the radio alerting the fire ground of trapped firefighters. Nearby crews quickly effected a rescue of three firefighters. One was transported immediately to a local hospital in moderate condition, while a second finished battling the fire and was transported in fair condition after the flames were declared to be knocked down. The third followed up with care on his own after the incident,” Prange said.

After the collapse inside the building, crews withdrew into defensive operations, pouring water onto the flames from outside the building. The fire was extinguished in an hour and 40 minutes, Prange said.

“LAFD heavy equipment was called out to assist with moving debris to access hot spots,” Prange said. “Crews will remain working throughout the day (Monday) to continue uncovering smoldering debris in the rubble. LAFD’s House of Worship Task Force and Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section are working together to conduct the fire-cause investigation, which remains active.”

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