EL MONTE >> A fire broke out Saturday at vacant business that formerly housed a gunpowder manufacturing facility, authorities said.
The fire was first reported at 4:49 p.m. along Arden Drive, near the railroad tracks just north of Valley Boulevard, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Simms said.
Firefighters could see smoke rising from the 30-foot by 60-foot building as they were still a mile away, she said.
No significant explosions were reported, however firefighters approached the fire cautiously upon learning of its previous use, officials said.
But officials soon confirmed the building was vacant and empty, Simms said. Firefighters declared the blaze extinguished about 5:15 p.m. No injuries were reported.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
INDUSTRY >> An arson fire scorched an Industry warehouse packed with paper goods Wednesday, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 2:45 a.m. at a 55,000-square-foot warehouse in the 700 block of South 5th Avenue, Los Angeles Count fire and sheriff’s officials said.
Though largely “kept in check” by the building’s sprinkler system, firefighters battled the stubborn blaze for nearly two hours until it was declared extinguished, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright said. No injuries were reported.
But firefighters determined the scene of the fire appeared suspicious and called in investigators from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail, Wright said.
“The cause is arson,” sheriff’s Detective Cynthia Valencia said. It appeared the arsonist spread gasoline around in the rear portion of the warehouse before lighting it on fire.
The intent of the arsonists appeared to be to destroy the building, but they were thwarted by the businesses’ fire-suppression system, she added.
“(The) sprinkler system did a great job,” Valencia said.
Preliminary estimated of the damage cause to the warehouse, as well as the paper plates, paper cups and other similar items stored inside ranged between $300,000 and $500,000, the detective said.
A subleased portion of the warehouse, which is used as a packaging business, was unscathed, she said.
Investigators continued seeking clues Thursday, and trying to determine who would want to torch the warehouse, Valencia said.
The arsonists were described only as two men, driving a sedan.
“The owner is very cooperative,” Valencia said.
Firefighters remained at the scene until about noon, Wright said.
Any witnesses, or anyone who saw anything suspicious early Wednesday morning is asked to contact Detective Valencia at the sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail at 323-881-7500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
TEMPLE CITY >> Firefighters made quick work of a fire in a residential garage that may have been sparked by the spontaneous combustion of varnish-soaked rags, authorities said.
The fire was reported just before 12:15 p.m. in a detached residential garage in the 5200 block of Halifax Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Nick Yslas said.
Firefighters arrived within minutes, and declared the flames “knocked down” about 10 minutes after that, he said.
No one was home at the time, he said.
One firefighter was hospitalized with heat exhaustion, the captain said. The injury was considered minor.
The officials cause of the fire remained under investigation, Yslas said.
But firefighters suspected that varnish-soaked rags, left behind after the residence varnished furniture in the garage, he said.
Rags soaked with oil or other chemicals can spontaneously ignite via chemical reaction in a phenomenon known as “pyrolysis,” the captain explained.
Officials estimated the fire caused $65,000 worth of damage to the garage and its contents, Yslas said.
COVINA >> Authorities Wednesday released the identity of an elderly woman who died Friday in a fire at her home labeled “suspicious” by homicide detectives.
Helen Lambert, 89, died at the scene of the fire, which ignited about 2 p.m. at the home she shared with her grandson in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, in an unincorporated county area near Covina, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials.
Her charred remains were discovered by firefighters as they extinguished the blaze, which was primarily isolated to a bedroom toward the rear of the home.
An officials cause of death was yet to be determined by coroner’s investigators, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. An autopsy has been completed, however, the cause of death has been deferred pending additional investigation.
Sheriff’s officials initially said arson was suspected in the fatal fire.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau later described the fire as “suspicious” in nature, but declined to discuss what about the fire caught the attention of investigators. No arrests have been made.
The grandson, described by a friend as 18 years old, was not injured in the fire.
A friend of the grandson, 22-year-old Gabriel Garcia of Glendora, said he had just arrived to visit the grandson when his friend told him the house was on fire, and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
The two young men smashed a window or glass for at the rear of the home, but were unable to enter due to the extreme heat and thick smoke, Garcia said.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.
COVINA >> A woman died in a possible arson fire in an unincorporated county area just outside of Covina Friday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 2:01 p.m. at a house in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Humberto Agurcia said.
“The first units arrived at 2:07 p.m. and reported a single-family dwelling with smoke showing from the rear,” he said. The fire was extinguished 15 minutes later.
Sheriff’s officials said firefighters entered the house, put out the fire and discovered the charred remains of an adult in a bedroom. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials initially described the victim as a woman,said the person’s gender, ethnicity and age were yet to be determined
The deadly fire was being investigated as an arson, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said. But officials released no information regarding why He didn’t say why arson was suspected.
The fire primarily involved a bedroom toward the rear of the house where the remains of the victim were found.
Neighbor Steve Campanella said an elderly woman lives at the home with her grandson.
He said he didn’t know his elderly neighbor well, but would sometimes see her in her front yard. The woman and her grandson moved to the neighborhood about eight years ago, neighbors said.
Gabriel Garcia, 22, of Glendora, a friend of the 18-year-old man who lives at the home with his grandmother, said he arrived to visit the grandson as the fire was starting.
The fire was not visible from the street, he said. The grandson told Garcia the house was on fire and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
“We went through the back. We tried breaking in,” Garcia said. “We eventually broke (a glass door), but we couldn’t go in. It was so hot.”
Garcia said he wanted to help. He said he saw no flames, only thick smoke.
“There was so much smoke, I could barely see the bed,” he said.
Garcia said the grandson arrived shortly before him.
Both fire-cause investigators and sheriff’s homicide detectives were summoned to the scene.
Investigators continued combing over the scene for evidence Friday night.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 31-year-old worker killed Tuesday in an explosion and fire at a Santa Fe Springs hair care product distribution company.
Ji Hoon Oh died at the scene of the massive fire Tuesday afternoon at Innosys Beauty Care Inc., 10015 Pioneer Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said. His city of residence was unclear.
The rest of the employees managed to escape the fast-spreading fire without serious injuries, Santa Fe Springs Fire Department Chief Michael Crook said. One firefighter and one employee were treated for minor injuries.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation pending the results of laboratory analysis of samples of products collected at the gutted warehouse, Crook said.
Oh’s cause of death was also yet to be determined by coroner’s investigators, officials said.
Representatives of IBC could not be reached for comment.
The facility is in the business of receiving, repackaging and distributing hair care products.
Firefighters described the business, consisting of a warehouse and office, a total loss. But firefighters kept the intense flames from spreading to other businesses adjoined to the same building.
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> The cause of an explosion and fire that destroyed a Santa Fe Springs beauty care product distribution company and killed an employee remains a mystery, authorities said Wednesday.
The identity of the worker killed in Tuesday afternoon’s fast-spreading an intense fire at Innosys Beauty Care IBS, Inc., 10015 Pioneer Blvd., had yet to be determined, Ed Winter, Los Angeles County Department of Medical-Examiner Coroner said. Santa Fe Springs Fire Chief Michael Crook described the victim as a man of about 30 years old.
Following reports of an explosion at the facility, which repackages and distributes beauty care products such as hair shampoo and conditioner, firefighters arrived to find the warehouse portion of the business engulfed in flames.
All but one employee had managed to get out of the burning building before firefighters arrived.
“Fellow occupants reported they did have a fellow worker inside. They knew he did not get out,” Crook said.
Firefighters rushed into the flame-engulfed warehouse and found the man, but could not save him, the chief said. Paramedics pronounced the worker dead at the scene.
The involved business unit, which contained both a warehouse and an office operated by IBC, was a “total loss,” Crook said. He initially estimated the damage at more than $500,000, but added that officials were yet to tally the value of the products and other contents of the building destroyed by the three-alarm fire.
Nearby fire agencies joined Santa Fe Springs firefighters in battling the massive blaze. Firefighters were able to prevent the flames from spreading to other business adjoined to the burning structure, though at least one sustained water damage.
“We were very fortunate to keep the fire to one unit,” Crook said.
Representatives of IBC could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Officials from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the Whittier Police Department and the county joined Santa e Springs fire officials at the scene Wednesday to continue gathering clues.
“The investigation is ongoing with the focus being on why there was an explosion, since the warehouse was used as a distribution site and not for manufacturing,” SFS Department of Fire-Rescue Chief Michael Crook said.
The one-story building stored boxes of silicone-based hair products, which may have been involved in the fire’s explosive rate of spread.
Investigators collected samples of the different products stored in the warehouse for lab analysis. Lab results were expected by early next week.
“We are looking into if these products led to the explosion and the intensity of the fire,” Crook explained.
The products, he continued, were stored in bulk-type containers and transferred to smaller bottles to sell at salons.
He said the fire was also fueled by the plastic bottles inside the warehouse.
“Plastic burns fast and hot,” he explained.
The investigation also focused on what the employee who was killed in the fire, such as where exactly he was in the warehouse when the fire ignited, and what he was doing, Crook said.
One firefighter and one civilian suffered minor injuries in the fire, he said.
- Brian Day and Sandra Molina
PASADENA >> Less than one day after commuters rejoiced in the long-anticipated opening of the expanded Gold Line light-rail route connecting Pasadena to Azusa, a fiery big rig crash early Sunday brought the trains to a halt between the Allen and Sierra Madre Villa stations in Pasadena and the newly-operational Arcadia station, officials said.
The big rig driver suffered minor injuries after he lost control of his tractor-trailer shortly before 3 a.m. on the westbound 210 Freeway at Madre Street, California Highway Patrol Officer Monica Posada said.
But the powerful impact sent the truck smashing through the center median and into the divider, where the Gold Line tracks sit.
The big rig quickly became “fully engulfed” in flames, according to CHP logs.
The driver was able to walk away from the crash, Posada said.
The carpool lane and the two left-hand lanes of the westbound 210 Freeway were expected to remain closed through Sunday afternoon, according to the CHP and Caltrans.
Crews cleared the still-hot wreckage and debris from the roadway and median about 11:30 a.m., Metro officials said. A Metro crew worked to assess the extent of the damage to the train tracks.
The extent of the damage to the tracks themselves was not immediately clear.
Shuttle buses carried passengers between the affected train stations, Metro officials said in a written statement.
“Trains are running every 15 minutes between Union Station and Allen Station and every 15 minutes between Arcadia Station to APU/Citrus College Station,” the statement said. “If looking for an alternative one-seat ride, Foothill Transit’s 187 Bus runs between Azusa and Old Pasadena with stops in Duarte, Irwindale, Monrovia and Arcadia.”
The crash severed the Gold Line route between Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley just one day after an estimated 30,000 riders crowded onto trains following a ceremony Saturday morning to commence operation of the new route.
The 11.5-mile Gold Line Foothill Expansion connects Pasadena to Azusa.
PHOTO courtesy of the Pasadena Fire Department
GLENDORA >> Authorities have officially identified a 63-year-old man who died in a fire at his mobile home in Glendora last month.
Brent Gielen died the fire, which ignited about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 4 at his mobile home in the Tropics Trailer Park, 428 E. Route 66, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
An autopsy determined he died from “thermal burns and smoke inhalation,” and the death was ruled an accident, according to the coroner’s office.
Gielen’s formal identification was delayed due to the condition of his body, officials said.
Investigators also determined the cause of the fire itself was accidental, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright said. Further details on what specifically ignited the fire were not available.
A neighboring mobile home was damaged in the fire, but no other injuries were reported.
PHOTO by Walt Mancini
MONTEBELLO >> A homeless man who sparked a 384-acre wildfire in the Rio Hondo Riverbed in Montebello last year pleaded “no contest” Thursday to a charge of recklessly causing a fire, prosecutors said.
Arturo Miallan Aguilar, 46, was immediately sentenced to a year in county jail and three years of probation and ordered to attend a year-long live-in drug treatment program after entering the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. A restitution hearing was yet to be scheduled.
Aguilar sparked the fire while cooking food in the riverbed near the Whittier Narrows Reservoir about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16, Montebello police Lt. Michael Bergman said.
The blaze quickly exploded out of control, ultimately scorching 384 acres in Montebello and nearby unincorporated county area before firefighters contained it days later. No structures were damaged.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire, including three who were hurt when a helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier, and one who suffered heat exhaustion, officials said.
PHOTOS: [TOP] A fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [MIDDLE] Seen from Irwindale on the 605 Freeway, a fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [BELOW] A “Super Scooper” Quebec 1 scoops water to fight the Lincoln Fire burning in Montebello Hills as people cool off in the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale on Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ San Gabriel Valley Tribune)