PICO RIVERA (CBSLA) – Crews were still on scene Friday morning after a three-alarm fire tore through a building at an apartment complex in Pico Rivera, displacing about 300 residents and sending a firefighter and two civilians to a hospital.
The massive fire was “most likely” caused by plumbing work, investigators said Friday.
“All indications (are) the Pico Rivera apartment fire most likely (was) caused by plumbing work,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said Friday morning.
About 220 firefighters responded to the blaze at its height, which was reported about 3:35 p.m. Thursday at a three-story apartment building in the 9100 block of Burke Street.
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.
Firefighters remained on scene early Friday morning conducting overhaul operations, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The flames made their way into the structure’s common attic, according to Medina, who said the fire then spread quickly.
Many neighbors said they ran back inside to help others get out.
“I went up to the second floor and got a fire extinguisher, pulled a fire alarm and then ran to the third floor,” resident Jesse Aguilar told CBS2. “The whole ceiling was already bubbling up and bits and pieces were coming down…but with the fire extinguisher, I couldn’t do much.”
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, according to a dispatcher, but firefighters continued to put out hot spots late into the night.
A woman and one other person suffered smoke inhalation and were taken to a hospital, as was a firefighter who was suffering from heat exhaustion, a dispatcher said. 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, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters at the scene.
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.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, the emergency shelter set up for the Corsica Apartment Homes residents at Rivera Park at 9530 Shade Lane will be accepting donations including hygiene products and cold weather gear such as hats and scarves, according to reports from the scene.
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