Woman Succumbs When Fire Sweeps Through Converted Pacoima Garage

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 |

PACOIMA - A woman died and a man sustained injury, when a fast-moving fire swept through a Pacoima garage that had been converted to living quarters.

Reported at 8:56 AM on Wednesday April 4, 2012 to the rear of 12946 Sunburst Street in Pacoima, the fire brought 34 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department to battle heavy flames within a one-story 400 square-foot detached garage.


As firefighters raced with hoselines to battle the fire, they were met by an adult male resident who sustained second-degree burns to his face and hands in a reported attempt to rescue a woman trapped inside the burning building. While attacking intense flames, firefighters discovered the lifeless body of an adult female within the structure. Beyond medical help, she was declared dead at the scene.

The burned man was treated for his wounds and offered emotional support by LAFD Paramedics, before being taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital in fair condition.

The fire was fully extinguished in just sixteen minutes, and no other injuries were reported.

Los Angeles Firefighters found it essential to note the lack of any smoke alarm within the makeshift residential structure, which was also fitted with window security bars deemed "non-compliant" with the City's quick-release safety standard. There were no obvious non-fire factors to impair the woman's egress from the dwelling, which was not equipped with residential fire sprinklers.

A positive identification of the deceased woman, as well as the precise cause, time and manner of her death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.

A formal determination of the structure's compliance with residential building codes will be a matter for the City's Department of Building & Safety. Monetary loss from the fire has been estimated at $20,000 ($15,000 structure & $5,000 contents), while the cause of the blaze remains under active investigation.
Dispatched Units: E98 RA898 RA77 E77 E289 T89 EM15 BC12 E81 RA98 AR2 AR11 AR17 AR9 AR39
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Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can LAFD Admin advise why Light Force 98 (truck company) was not on this dispatch and why two Rescue Ambulances had to complete ventilation?

Did the blackout of any companies affect this incident? Citizens would like to know.

Thank you

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Dear Anonymous 12:17,

I appreciate your taking time to write. While you may be a Los Angeles resident, I gain a greater sense you're also a firefighter (no need to be shy). As such, I'll try to reply in a manner that guides a resident and/or responder to an authoritative reply they can hang their hat on.

First and foremost, I trust you join our LAFD family in offering condolence to the loved ones of the woman who died, and wishes for the burned man's swift and complete recovery. The fire was a tragic event for all involved. We were fortunate that no firefighters or others were injured.

From the statistics provided to me: your LAFD dispatches nearly 2200 responses each day to more than 1,000 incidents. To coordinate and accomplish response and "coverage" - as well as the LAFD's many other needs (e.g. mandatory training, emergency equipment repairs, etc) there are countless changes in individual unit status and location every minute of every day. Were one person to attempt to read the citywide LAFD unit status data in real-time on a single computer screen, it would be a blur.

At the time of the fire on Sunburst, there were more than 30 separate and active fire department emergency incidents in our jurisdiction. Because I was not looking at the screen at the instant the call was queued, I cannot presently state from memory (I'm currently at home) the status of Truck 98 at the moment the fire was dispatched.

Such data of course, is readily researched, and I'm pleased to direct you to answers to both of your questions:

As a resident - or a responder questioning fireground tactics, strategy or command of this incident (something that's perfectly OK to do), your most appropriate first contact is the member of LAFD's management team assigned the northeast San Fernando Valley, and who was in charge of the Sunburst fire: Battalion Chief Charles Combs. I encourage you to call his office directly at (818)756-8612.

The units and personnel you mention were under the direct command of Chief Combs at the time of the fire, and he is certainly the best person in our Department to provide you an authoritative answer.

It is important for me to mention (especially to the casual reader) that nearly all LAFD personnel assigned to Rescue Ambulance duty are cross-trained and experienced in both firefighting and emergency medical services.

The assignment of tasks and accountability for those personnel - like all LAFD members on the scene of an emergency, lies with their supervisors (Captains) and Department management (Chief Officers) on the scene. It is not uncommon for such Officers to exercise the flexibility they deem necessary to manage an incident.

In closing...

If you are indeed a member of the LAFD, I strongly encourage to contact staff at UFLAC (or the Chief Officers Association) to research these and any other workplace issues that might concern you. The staff at these organizations work for you and I in the same manner we proudly work for the residents of Los Angeles.

I hope this information helps. If you feel a need for further conversation, please give me a call.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Mr. Humphrrey,
It appears that your reply was a skolding of some kind. Are you or have you been directed to belittle the folks that submit comments?
In light of current events, with the closures of many fire stations and companies, it seems to be to be a legitimate question. Was the fire company in that district available when the fire broke out? And if not, did the closure of companies cause any delay? We need to know if these closures are having a real and serious impact. So if you are unable to answer, say you are unable to answer. I dont want to call somebody that is going to give me a bundle of false statistics to justify his or her way of thinking. I would appreicate plain and simple facts. Yes or no, did fire company 98 respond and get there first? If not, why? IF not, who did and now long did it take them to get there?

Thanks,
Concerned voter and taxpayer

Anonymous said...

It is indeed a terrible tragedy that somebody died at this fire. With that, and because response times are in the media forefront, was there any delay in companies arriving due to closures? Was there a delay in the ladder company getting to the fire, as the fire fighter suggested in his comment? And, are you going to answer the question OR refer us to somebody else who may or may not spin this question or answer??

Anonymous said...

Brian,
If you're not going to answer the persons question, then don't reply to it. And no need to be arrogant in your answer, either.

Anonymous said...

Come on Brian...You can look up the Incident # & time of dispatch and then look up Light Force 98's status. It's at the tip of your fingers & your keyboard.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 5:10

Thanks for taking the time to write. My reply above to Anonymous 12:17, was not intended as a scolding (that's not my role), but rather an attempt to answer with a (too deeply?) detailed message that would resonate clearly with an apparent co-worker, as well as with someone else who happens to casually came across the thread (e.g. why might 'ambulance personnel' have been involved in fighting fire?).

Hence my mention of "something they can hang their hat on" :) - and the direct referral and contact information for a ranking official who can be of official and authoritative help.

Admittedly, the tone of text messages can be misinterpreted, and I apologize if you or others somehow found my reply abrasive.

As mentioned above, I am at home today without direct access to the accurate data needed. Chief Combs has access to the data you seek, and more importantly was in command of the incident.

I have no personal knowledge of the tactical decision that put particular LAFD personnel on the task of rooftop ventilation at that incident (a key question of Anonymous 12:17). That's why I remain confident that the best possible answer to such detailed questions will come *directly* from the Incident Commander, Battalion Chief Charles Combs, who can be reached at (818) 756-8612.

In the interest of accuracy for those who may come across this thread in the future, there have indeed been fire and ambulance vehicles that are no longer staffed at our agency in accordance with the Fire Chief's current Deployment Plan - but no City of Los Angeles Fire Stations [emphasis] have been "closed". Less personnel and vehicles? Yes. Fewer Fire Stations? No.

In the interest of clarity, we have been posting the unit identification of all units dispatched to a significant incident, and as you will see above - and I gladly confirm here, Engine Company 98 (E98) was assigned to that fire, but Truck 98 (T98) was not.

Your rightful questions regarding the arrival and tasks assigned to the first and subsequent arriving LAFD units, are all matters that Chief Combs can authoritatively address as the Incident Commander.

As someone who is also a "concerned voter and taxpayer", I appreciate your interest in the Los Angeles Fire Department and its endeavors. When I return to duty I warmly welcome you to visit our office as my guest for lunch or coffee, so that I can better understand your concerns - and explain our operations.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymnous 5:31,

I'm working on my own time at home and without pay to be as helpful as I can at the moment :)

As indicated above, the only Truck Company assigned to this incident was North Hollywood based Truck 89 (T98). I don't have immediate access to the records that indicate their location at the time they received the call. The contact information above will hopefully get you and others all of the information you need, including some that can only come from a person who was there. I have known Chief Combs to be responsive and responsible in his statements, and like all members of the LAFD he is accountable for all that he says.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 5:33,

I try to publish every comment possible - and to reply in the best manner I can. I believe that providing the name and contact information for the Incident Commander to have been in the best interest in helping the commenter right away. Ditto the links for the Union and Chief Officer's Association in the likelihood they were an LAFD member. If there is something else you think I could and should have done, I'm all ears!

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 7:25,

I appreciate your confidence in my superhuman powers :) but you may have missed the part about me being at home (sick) today.

Hence my referral for prompt and authoritative information from the Incident Commander himself. While I may be able to access some details when I get back in the office, the totality of questions (including why certain personnel were on the roof) made connection with the Incident Commander a natural and timely suggestion. Clearly that is not enough at this moment. I'm sorry I can't do more until I return to duty, hopefully by Easter Sunday.

FWIW, my location and duty status are very transparent and can be found in the right column of:

lafdpso-b.blogspot.com

Fraternally Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Brian, take people in stride. They read what they wanted and probably nothing you said. Those people don't know the legal grief you are facing on their behalf. Keep up the good work and stay out of prison ;)

http://documents.latimes.com/mayors-office-letter-city-attorney-lafd-data/#document/p7/a51684

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 8:32,

Thanks for the kind words. They mean more than you knowl. Here is the link posted correctly:

http://documents.latimes.com/mayors-office-letter-city-attorney-lafd-data/#document/p7/a51684

Anonymous said...

Brian, As a casual observer who just happen on this blog, I read your response to the first question and subsequent questions directed towards you. I read nothing in your response to indicate you were "scolding". I though you were polite and informative with detail. The people read what they wanted to read and nothing will convince them otherwise.

Ben said...

Brian,

I agree with the last poster's comments. You have always been extremely polite in your responses to questions. You and the other LAFD PSOs are doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

To interested readers.

Truck 98 should have been the first truck to be dispatched and arrive on scene at this tragic fire. Truck 98 was not available because they were covering another area which has become quite common after the closure of 18 fire companies and elimination of 360 firefighting positions.

Truck 89 was the first in truck which is farther away than Truck 98. It is unknown if having Truck 98 on this incident would have made a difference in this specific incident. Although we all know that agressive fire operations include coordinated rapid fire attack and ventilation to give victims the best possible chance to survive and or be found by rescuers. Sadly that did not occur in this incident.

Two things are for certain. 1. It is extremely rare on the LAFD to assign a Rescue Ambulance (two personnel) alone to ventilation at a structure fire (although in this instance it was a good call).
2. Operations at incidents such as this one will become the norm and not the exception with the busy summer months ahead and the ever increasing demand and call for emergency services.

Lets hope no one else is killed or injured due to inadequate staffing and closed fire and rescue resources.

LAFD Firefighter

Anonymous said...

t98 was on a move up to cover another district

Anonymous said...

Brian,

Is there a reason why you did not post my comments regarding the research and information I posted regarding this incident?

My post discussed the fact that the truck that normally would have been first in to this tragic fatality fire was moved up to another area. My comments also discussed the potential for future incidents such as this that may occur.

Brian, you are an outstanding PSO and calls them as they are. I sincerely hope that the administration did not censure my comment regarding this incident and the impact on public safety that the company closures and personnel reductions have had.

Keep up the good work keeping everyone informed.

Thanks

LAFD Firefighter

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

LAFD Firefighter,

Thanks for the note, and understandable inquiry.

I deeply appreciate you sharing that you're part of our team. Clarifying at the very least our backgrounds (and hopefully when possible our identity) allows our readers to better understand our perspective and lend it credence. Thank you for being polite and staying on topic.

I do hope those in- or outside our agency who had pressing questions specifically about tactics and command decisions spoke with Chief Combs in my absence.

Please know that your earlier message is still in queue, and will soon appear here - possibly above this message in the timeline, now that I have completed a "three-factor" though non-official review of all information available to me, including listening (repeatedly) to well more than an hour of fireground audio to confirm times, personnel, equipment and actions.

Such cursory review corraborates the digital time stamps of the response, that indicate a 3:51 response time for the first LAFD unit to arrive on scene.

Your earlier comment was simply held until I had a chance to review all such data, in case a prompt clarification was necessary of comments that I needed to consider as "anonymously offered as factual". I trust you understand the importance of me being fully prepared to offer perspective or corrections of even such plausible comments. I wish I had found the time to do this sooner, but we have been incredibly busy.

The Sunburst fire happened at a busy time for our Department, with (Aerial Ladder) Truck Company 98 indeed out of quarters due to a moveup to help cover overall demands across the City. They were not in a position to respond, though Engine Company 98 did respond from their home quarters.

By any and all accounts, all of the responders nmentioned in our report and by you gave it their all in battling flames in the 20' x 20' converted garage. We remain saddened by the loss of life, yet glad that no other persons were injured.

In closing... LAFD Admin has never told us to pull blog comments, and the only ones that were "non-published" this week were overseas spam and a pair of short, poorly crafted ad-hominem attacks, one full of vulgarity. For those who wish to post that, we have a place to send them ;)

In the future, I hope you'll pick up the phone whenever you have a concern, inquiry or suggestion regarding our endeavors at the LAFD EPI-Center (PSO Office). We don't always get it done as quick as we'd like, but with your help and guidance, we can alway strive to do better.

Fraternally Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Anonymous said...

Hello Brian, It's apparent you can't please everyone all of the time. "Anonymous" apparently does not live in Los Angeles as he would know there are no station blackouts. You guys "move up" companies all the time. In this instance T98 moved to another station but who knew a fatal fire would occur in their first in district. Anonymous likes to point fingers and blame the system...Brian, you guys do a fabulous job for the residents of L.A. and for that I am truly grateful. I am a former resident of LA and was in he fire service for a period of time. Keep of the good work, and be safe.

Vale Hanzel
Cobb, Ca

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Vale Hanzel,

Thanks for the note and your kind words. While we don't wish to speculate who "anonymous" people are - or where they live, we do appreciate an opportunity to clarify that in a time of profound austerity, the LAFD is doing all that it can with the resources it is given; and that's no small feat.

As you mention, the dynamic nature of our work has - and will continue over time, to present operational challenge. Let there be no doubt to any casual reader: Today's LAFD has "an eight foot table & a five foot tablecloth", and the impact of such places around-the-clock demands on the men and women who proudly serve you.

Clearly, the solutions to such issues lie well above my paygrade, and the best venue for leveraging change is not this blog (and certainly not this thread regarding a tragic fire).

We appreciate that you and others take time to visit this blog, and trust you join with us in wishing the injured man a complete and swift recovery from his painful injury.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Firefighter/Specialist
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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