Arson Caused Apartment Blaze That Left Three Dead, Dozens Injured
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Clutching a child in each hand, one man leaped over flames in a hallway to escape an arson fire Monday at an apartment building. Others, including a naked man, jumped from second-floor windows. Three people were killed and at least 19 injured.
″It was a hellhole, an inferno. There were flames coming toward me,″ said Everardo Gutierrez, who escaped with his young niece and nephew by jumping over fire in the corridor.
Around 3 a.m., witnesses reported smoke and flames spurting from the two- story, downtown apartment building. About 100 firefighters had the fire out 30 minutes later, said city Fire Department spokesman Bob Collis.
″It was arson,″ Officer B. Marley said. ″They found gasoline in the hallway.″
No arrests were made.
At least 72 people were displaced by the fire. About 50 took shelter at a school, said Red Cross spokeswoman Pamela R. Corante.
Gathered on cots in the school’s gymnasium and appearing dazed, none of the residents could say why the fire might have been set.
Witnesses said they saw more than a dozen people jump from the second floor.
″One person jumped out of the back window naked,″ said Hector Verges. ″He was rolling on his back, and I think he was a little burned.″
″One woman was going to jump. I told her not to and the firefighters got her with the ladder,″ said first-floor tenant Jose Martinez, holding his 2- year-old daughter.
Officials withheld names of victims while relatives were being notified. Authorities said only that one man died after jumping from a window and two other people were found dead in hallways.
Gutierrez said his aunt, Elsa Casillas, 52, perished in the flames. Rebecca Salazar, 62, died in the hallway, said her son, Alfonso Carillo.
Nineteen people were taken to hospitals, some for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation, Collis said.
Eight children and four adults were in critical condition while seven adults were in serious condition, Collis said.
Up to 170 people lived in the building, which lacked sprinklers but seemed to have working fire exits, said Deputy Fire Chief Gerald Johnson.