Greater Alarm Structure Fire Destroys Vacant Mid-Wilshire Strip Mall

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Los Angeles Fire Department battled a greater alarm structure fire in the Mid-Wilshire area on Wednesday afternoon. A strip mall at 5517 West San Vicente Boulevard, vacant for over a year, was ultimately demolished due to fire damage. 

Smoke was reported by multiple callers at 1:24 PM on May 29, 2024. Firefighters arrived on-scene to find a single-story strip mall, approximately 50ft x 75ft in length, vacant and boarded up, with moderate smoke showing from the attic. 

Crews forced entry into the structure and commenced an aggressive interior fire attack. This interior attack was coordinated with other companies, who laddered the exterior of the building to gain access to the roof -- vertical ventilation was initiated in order to release heat and smoke from the confines of the building.

Strip mall fires pose three major concerns during firefighting operations: lightweight roofing materials that tend to burn quickly, common attic spaces which increase the likelihood of horizontal fire spread to multiple units within the building, and overhanging facades that are very susceptible to collapse when impinged by fire. 

Personnel remained cognizant of these dangers, and noticed the roof of the building beginning to sag around heavy air conditioning units, indicating structural compromise. As there were no occupants inside the structure endangered, the decision was made to transition from LAFD's more aggressive "offensive mode" into "defensive mode." 

Firefighters, under the command of Assistant Chief Douglas Lewis, retreated off of the roof and from inside the building, then recommenced fire attack from the exterior with heavy streams of water from a safe distance. Shortly thereafter, a front-facing facade and the roof of the structure did collapse, with no injuries reported.

78 firefighters were engaged at the peak of the incident, and the fire was fully extinguished in just under 2 hours. 

Additional LAFD personnel and equipment were brought to the scene, including an excavator which was employed to knock down the walls of the building in order to ensure future life safety around this structure. The RS3 firefighting robot was also at the scene, though ultimately not employed in the firefight.

Companies remained on-scene into the evening hours in order to perform demolition operations and actively investigate the cause of the blaze.

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