Christmas Tree Fuels Fatal Hollywood Fire

Saturday, December 23, 2006 |

On Saturday, December 23, 2006 at 8:07 PM, twelve Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, five LAFD Rescue Ambulances, one Arson Unit, one Emergency Air Unit, one Hazardous Materials Squad, two EMS Battalion Captains, two Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and one Division Chief Officer Command Team, a total of 85 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel, who were joined in automatic aid by more than a dozen members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, all under the direction of LAFD Assistant Chief Roderick Garcia, responded to a Greater Alarm Structure Fire with Civilian Fatality at 1319 North Martel Avenue in the City of Los Angeles near West Hollywood.

Firefighters arrived quickly to reports of a structure fire with a person trapped to discover flames extending from the front portion of a subdivided single family home threatening a three-story apartment building to the south.

According to witnesses, an 18 year-old male had been seated in the living room of the one-story duplex, when he noticed a nearby artificial Christmas Tree catch fire. At first attempting to unplug the tree, he was driven back by intense heat and flames, and subsequently proved unable to find or muster a fire extinguisher within the home.

His 61 year-old father departed his spouse in a rear bedroom in an attempt to assist his son, before both men were pushed from the house by searing heat and ink-dark smoke that rose from floor-to-ceiling, making their rescue of the man's 56 year-old wife impossible.

Los Angeles Firefighters rehabilitate before returning to battle
Fire on Martel Ave
Image courtesy of feverblue.

With profound determination, first arriving Firefighters fought their way tenaciously past the men into the burning residence and rescued the woman, who was found pulseless and non-breathing on a bedroom floor.

Met by LAFD Firefighter/Paramedics as they carried the woman from the home, an exhaustive effort at Advanced Life Support measures was initiated at scene and continued during ambulance transport to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where despite the efforts of LAFD personnel and hospital staff, the woman succumbed.

The woman's husband, impacted heavily by grief and smoke inhalation, was taken to the same hospital in fair condition. The son was not injured.

Firefighters from the two agencies worked in a seamless fashion to prevent the flames from taking hold of the nearby apartment building, where damage was limited to scorched paint and two windows broken by radiant heat.

Fire was held to the building of origin, and extinguished in just 54 minutes.

Though there were no other civilian injuries, one Los Angeles Firefighter suffered a severe muscle tear to his right arm during the arduous fire attack. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood for observation and placed off-duty.

There were no security bars on the home, or other obvious impairments to those exiting the building. It was not immediately clear why the woman did not seek an earlier or alternate route of egress.

The 1,136 square-foot portion of the home occupied by the family did contain functional smoke alarms, but their role during the swift-moving fire was not immediately determined. The 98 year-old wood-frame home was not equipped with Fire Sprinklers.

A positive identification of the deceased woman, as well as the cause, time and manner of her death will be determined by Coroner's officials.

Monetary loss from the fire is still being tabulated.

The origin of this deadly fire has been localized to electrical circuitry supporting the Christmas Tree and other holiday decorations. A particular focus of those investigating the blaze remains the often improper and ill-advised combination of a multi-outlet electrical power strip fed by an extension cord.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


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