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Woman Clings To Life Following Mid-Town Blaze

Sunday, September 24, 2006 |

On Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 11:04 PM, eleven Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, five LAFD Rescue Ambulances, three Arson Units, three Urban Search and Rescue Units, one Hazardous Materials Squad, two EMS Battalion Captains, three Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and one Division Chief Officer Command Team, a total of 94 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel under the direction of Battalion Chief John Drake, responded to a Greater Alarm Structure Fire with Civilian Burn Injury at 866 South Norton Avenue in the Greater Wilshire/Mid-Town area of Los Angeles.

Firefighters arrived within two minutes of the 9-1-1 call to discover heavy fire showing from the first floor of a 2,768 square-foot two-story single family home.

A brisk primary search was commenced by the first-arriving Firefighters, who subsequently rescued an 83 year-old woman from the vicinity of a hospital-style bed in the home's front living room.

The invalid woman's adult female caretaker had earlier tucked her in for the night, sought to make her more comfortable, and then retired to her own first-floor accommodations in the rear of the house.

Just after 11:00 PM, the caretaker heard the woman scream for help, and fearing for her medical well-being, began calling 9-1-1.

As the caretaker's call was connected to LAFD Firefighter/Dispatchers, she completed her journey to the front room, only to be confronted with flames.

With fire beginning to spread rapidly in the room, the caretaker attempted to move the physically infirm woman to a wheelchair as several properly functioning smoke alarms began to sound throughout the Victorian-style home.

The caretaker's repeated attempts were unsuccessful however, and she was ultimately driven back by the heat, smoke and flames before being forced to flee the home unscathed.

Firefighters pulled the invalid woman from the blaze with blinding speed, but not before she sustained massive second- and third-degree burns from the swift-moving fire, which was confined to the room of origin and extinguished in just nineteen minutes.

LAFD Paramedics provided the burned octogenarian with skillful and compassionate care while rushing her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in grave condition.

No other injuries were reported.

There were no security bars or other obvious impairment to egress from the home, which was not equipped with fire sprinklers.

Monetary loss from the fire was limited to $35,000 ($25,000 structure & $10,000 contents).

The cause of the blaze is categorized as accidental and remains under active investigation by Los Angeles Fire Department officials.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

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Anonymous said...

This is a very sad story. How is the woman doing?

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Dear Anonymous:

This is a sad story, and while it troubles us to offer such heartbreaking details, we hope that it will inspire you and others to join us in practicing fire safety, especially where it might impact those who are so vulnerable.

Regretfully, we have not been able to obtain any word of the woman's status following her hospital admission.

Patient confidentiality laws and LAFD protocols preclude us from formally identifying the woman or seeking and sharing detailed public information after her care was transfered to hospital staff.

If her family wishes to offer details here however, we'll be pleased to share them with you.

In the meantime, we ask you to join us in keeping her and all of the ill and injured people we care for each day (we take more than 500 to the hospital every day) in your thoughts and prayers.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

redcup56 said...


My thoughts and prayers are with the victim, her caretaker and her family. I am curious though, your article stated the woman screamed, the caretaker called 9-1-1, went to the room and saw the fire, started moving the victim, and then the alarms went off. Were the alarms positioned properly in the house?

Portland, OR

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...


Thank you for your kind sentiments and concern about the injured woman. I'm confident they are needed and will prove welcomed by her friends and family.

To answer your question...

The caretaker had retired to her room yet apparently had not fallen asleep.

The invalid woman's first scream for help appears to have come mere seconds after the fire erupted, and before the (several) properly mounted and maintained smoke alarms activated.

The caretaker instantly sprinted from her room with the phone, and as she called 9-1-1, saw flames.

The alarms can be heard sounding seconds later during the 9-1-1 call while the caretaker was attempting to pull the woman from the bed.

It is not uncommon for (both photoelectric and ionization type) smoke alarms to take a few seconds to activate. Such appears to be the case in this fire.

Though a home's living room would not *typically* have been required to have a smoke alarm, there was indeed one present - which is proper due to the woman using it as a "sleeping room".

Had the woman not been mobility impaired, it does seem likely that the smoke alarm(s) would have alerted or awakened her in the early stages of the fire, and allowed her to escape unharmed.

I hope this makes it more clear as to what transpired. Though categorized as 'accidental', the blaze remains under investigation.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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