Creative Commons licensed for your use | LAFD Photo by Harry Garvin
Fire blew through the roof and into the night sky as firefighters battled to save clothing businesses in Downtown Los Angeles.
At 8:03PM on October 30, 2020 the Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 917 S San Julian Street in Downtown LA. The first arriving fire companies saw heavy smoke coming from the back of a commercial building. They located an outside fire and worked to quickly extinguish it. Despite their efforts, the fire had already extended into the adjacent one story commercial building.
Firefighters forced entry into the 10,832 square foot building (housing three businesses) and initiated an interior fire attack. They continued to work their way into the building while visibility dropped, yet the seat of the fire remained out of reach. Truck companies, on the roof of the building, conducted vertical ventilation, resulting in both fire and pressurized smoke emanating from the holes. It was determined the fire was above the interior crews, likely on a mezzanine which was inaccessible to them. The deteriorating conditions created an untenable position and the incident commander, Assistant Chief Dean Zipperman, made the decision to transition to a defensive operation.
With all firefighters out of the building and off the roof, company officers conducted an accountability report to ensure all were safe and present while preparing for master streams. Over the next 90 minutes, crews applied copious amounts of water from ladder pipes and large diameter hand lines to drown out the blaze. Pockets of fire remained out of reach due to the style of construction and once the conditions improved enough, firefighters returned to an offensive mode. An official ‘knockdown’ was declared two hours and nine minutes into the incident. Firefighters defended a second building, exposed to the fire, from any damage.
One firefighter was transported with a heat-related illness and returned to full duty a short while later. LAFD Arson and Counter-Terrorism Section (ACTS) responded and are actively investigating the cause of the fire, following protocol for an incident of this size.