On Monday, May 15, 2006 at 7:07 PM, twenty-four Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, three LAFD Rescue Ambulances, one Heavy Rescue, one Arson Unit, one Urban Search and Rescue Unit, one Hazardous Materials Squad, one LAFD Helicopter, two EMS Battalion Captains, six Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and one Division Chief Officer Command Team, under the direction of Assistant Chief Roderick Garcia responded to a Major Emergency Structure Fire at 21700 Oxnard Street in the Warner Center area of Woodland Hills.
The first Company arriving in response to an Automatic Alarm activation, discovered forty persons calmly self-evacuating a twenty-story sealed high rise office building.
As the half-dozen first responding Firefighters quickly secured the lobby and adjacent Fire Control Room, they noted alarm activation on upper floors of the building. Firefighters also received verbal indication of fire on the seventeenth floor, and at least one building occupant missing and believed to be stranded in an elevator.
This information, relayed to Firefighter/Dispatchers at LAFD's Operations Control Dispatch Section, brought the well-coordinated response of an additional 149 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel on the ground and in the air.
In accordance with LAFD's High Rise Incident Command System, Firefighters established firm control of key building systems, including a recall of elevators to the lobby level of the seventeen year-old building. Firefighters carrying as much as 100 pounds of equipment each, then commenced a steady climb up more than forty flights of stairs to the upper reaches of the third-tallest building in Warner Center.
With detailed knowledge of the structure gained during fire prevention and annual Fire Department high-rise drills, Firefighters made strong headway to the seventeenth floor, where they found fire within an electrical room and smoke charging the seventeenth and impacting floors above.
As an LAFD Helicopter cross-staffed with an airborne Engine Company circled overhead, Firefighters established staging on the floor below the fire, optimizing a strategic assault that confined the incident entirely within the electrical room. The flames were fully abolished in little more than an hour.
There were no injuries related to the fire.
Subsequent to firefighting operations, Firefighters systematically searched the buildings many elevators and associated systems to discover a woman trapped in a 'blind' segment of a split-bank elevator that served only floors twelve and above from the lobby.
Finding the one elevator car stuck at the 'fourth floor' level of the sealed shaft, Firefighters established verbal contact with the woman, who was uninjured and not exposed to smoke.
After redundantly securing the elevator, Firefighters used power tools to breach the elevator shaft wall from a fifth floor storage room, and then used a 12-foot Fire Department ladder within the shaft to access the woman.
Following a cursory evaluation of her condition and affirming her capabilities, she was gently assisted in climbing the ladder, and exited safely to decline further treatment or transportation.
Battalion Chief James Gaffney, 'B' Platoon Commander of LAFD's Battalion 17, was quick to compliment building staff for their prompt and efficient actions prior to and following the Fire Department's arrival.
The 29-year LAFD veteran offered special praise for the Building Engineer and Electrician, who offered technical expertise and insight that helped readily mitigate the emergency and strengthen Firefighter's efforts at severely minimizing potential damage from smoke and water.
Damage to the building was severely limited, and is estimated at $330,000 ($30,000 structural & $300,000 contents damage - largely attributable to smoke). The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical in nature. The specific reason for the elevator becoming inoperative was not determined by Firefighters, but may have been related to the fire.
NOTE: The building's management firm, Douglas Emmett, and tenants have been deeply supportive of the Los Angeles Fire Department for many years. On a regular basis, they donate the full weekend use of this entire building, at more than a minimal inconvenience, to allow Firefighters to train for high-rise operations. It is training and teamwork that clearly played a dividend in this fire.
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department