SOUTH LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A demolition crew arrived Wednesday to survey the damage after a massive fire at a historic two-story church in South Los Angeles gutted the building and injured two firefighters.
Two of the 150 Los Angeles City firefighters on scene were injured when the wooden church’s roof and second story partially collapsed while they were performing an interior attack, according to officials.
Audio recordings of firefighter radio traffic convey the terror of firefighters battling the blaze at Crouch Memorial Church of God In Christ on 1001 E. 27th Street Tuesday.
“We just had a collapse inside. We got firemen trapped inside,” one firefighter says in the recording.
The firefighter calls for help over the radio.
“Fire around me. Fire around me. Where are you right now? The first or second floor?” he is recorded saying as an alarm goes off in the background.
The other side responds that the injured firefighter was found and is being brought out.
Moments later, reports of a second trapped firefighter come across the radio. Minutes pass before fire crews confirm the location of a second downed firefighter on the second floor.
Both men were transported to California Hospital Medical Center and treated for non-life threatening injuries. One firefighter, listed in stable condition, was hospitalized overnight. The second firefighter was treated and released.
All other firefighters were later accounted for, officials said. A third firefighter later suffered a possible electric shock while on a ladder truck. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.
The fire was extinguished around 1:15 p.m. and the church was deemed a total loss.
Pastor Lawrence Magee said crews were examining the wreckage Wednesday.
“They are taking samples,” Magee said. “Examining the plaster and the material for asbestos and lead. And you know built in 1905 you can be assured that asbestos is somewhere in there.”
Pastor Magee told KCAL9′s Jeff Nguyen a rare form of pine was used to build the church. Expensive stained glass was also destroyed.
Some key pieces of the church were saved, including a 53-year-old organ. Pastor Magee said they will use it again when they rebuild.
On Tuesday, Magee said he feared the fire started when he turned on the recently repaired heating system for the first time.
An LAFD arson team and the department’s House of Worship Task Force, which includes personnel from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, will investigate.
The official cause remains unknown.