April 17, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help determine cause of downtown Los Angeles apartment fire

A team from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will join local investigators today in a probe that will determine if this week’s devastating fire in downtown Los Angeles was the result of arson, as several experts suspect.

“After a thorough investigation, it will be determined if the fire was incendiary or accidental in cause,” said Erik Scott, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman. For now, the area where a seven-story building under construction burned down is not a “crime scene” but an “investigative scene,” he said.

The federal team is believed to have arrived Tuesday. At 11:30 a.m. today, arson investigators from the ATF and Los Angeles Fire Department will hold a news conference at the corner of North Fremont and West Temple streets, near the site of Monday’s fire, which caused no injuries but is expected to exact an economic toll in the millions.

The news conference participants are likely to discuss their investigative game plan in the aftermath of an inferno that, along with destroying the building under construction, damaged three high-rise buildings and prompted hours-long freeway closures that affected thousands of commuters. The fire was so hot that it melted freeway signs, and at least 160 plate-glass windows were destroyed in a nearby city-owned building.

Accelerant-sniffing dogs will be deployed as part of the investigation. Arson investigators said they also plan to look at surveillance video from surrounding buildings.

“When we see a fire this well developed … (we think) perhaps it was set,” Los Angeles Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Castro said earlier this week, noting that flammable liquids are used on construction sites.

The standing buildings that were damaged include a 16-story city-owned building at 221 N. Figueroa St., where three floors sustained fire damage and 14 floors had water damage; a 15-story Los Angeles County Health Department building at 313 N. Figueroa St. which sustained radiant heat damage, including melted blinds and broken glass; and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power headquarters at 111 N. Hope St.

One of the city-owned towers — the 16-story structure — could be closed for six months, while the other could reopen by Thursday, city officials said. At the county-owned building, employees could be back at their desks today.

Crews with a private contractor used heavy equipment Tuesday to knock down scaffolding around the outside of the burned-out building, and firefighters were on standby, spraying down still-smoldering rubble and searching for possible hot spots.

Fire crews also continued spraying down the burned-out rubble and worked to secure the scene so investigators can begin sifting through the rubble.

The fire was reported at 1:20 a.m. Monday at the Da Vinci apartment complex at 906 N. Fremont Ave. The flames could be seen for miles as they consumed an entire city block and sent blazing scaffolding onto the Harbor (110) Freeway.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas said more than 250 firefighters were deployed to fight the fire and keep it from spreading beyond the 1.3 million-square-foot structure, which was in the framing stage.

Authorities have announced a hotline number — (213) 893-9850 — and urged tipsters to call in with any information relevant to the investigation.

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